Using Smart Speakers While Temporarily Blind

Originally published at: Using Smart Speakers While Temporarily Blind - TidBITS

How smart are smart speakers, really? Julio Ojeda-Zapata put this to the test when temporarily sightless due to a medical condition.Leaning on his Amazon, Apple, and Google speakers more than usual proved an often-frustrating exercise because Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are still pretty dumb.


@julio thanks for your article. Hopefully Apple, Amazon, and Google keep developing these speakers to capitalize on AI and they don’t become e-waste any sooner. Better yet, maybe these speakers can capitalize on competing AI that uses open source code?

Sorry to hear about your bike accident and injury, but glad to hear you’re recovering. Did a car play a role? Hopefully you’ll feel good enough to be back on your bike this summer. As you probably saw a couple years ago, St. Paul passed Minneapolis in large city bike ratings and with speed limits lowered city-wide and beautiful protected bike lanes safety is improving and the Twin Cities bike community is eager to have you back.

Thanks for your concern. No, a car wasn’t involved. I was attempting to shift from a bike trail onto a street, and twisting my neck and torso backward to see if the coast was clear, when I lost control of my bike and went flying.

I’m mostly recovered and able to cycle, but I’ve made the difficult decision to halt most bicycling activity because I’m realizing I’m too absentminded to be a road biker and I would have killed myself sooner or later. I’ve had SO many close calls.

My passion part of the year is cross-country skiing, but I’m still figuring out what to be excited about during the warm months.

Maybe get a smart trainer and use something like Zwift? No traffic, no wind, no balancing. I use Zwift during the winter months when there’s not enough snow for xc ski (like all winter this year) and it’s not warm enough (> 0 C) to go outside on a bike. (Today it was plenty warm enough and I went out on my eMTB.)

I have a stationary bicycle with Zwift compatibility, and also a smart trainer upon which I plan to permanently position my road bike since said steed will never see outside use again. I do have a beater touring-style bike I may use in moderation, if I work up the nerve, for errands around town and such.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Temporary blindness is challenging, and can happen from multiple causes (in my case, bandages on my nose prevented me from wearing glasses). A resource for the next person: has been running correspondence courses for blinded adults since 1920. Their site is maximally accessible – you can make it low contrast and huge fonts. You can also call them – 1-800-323-4238

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In addition to all of that, a blind sound-engineer would want to mix the sound too. Who’d be better to work in soundscapes like Dolby Atmos?

I found your article a useful overview of the current puzzling mix of features across the different vendors.

Apple didn’t specifically announce it, but as of iOS / iPadOS / HomePod 17 it does now support AirPlaying audiobooks from Apple Books on an iDevice to the HomePod, if you have Personal Requests enabled.

I blogged about it

You just need to add “on Books” the end of your request to make it work, e.g.

“Hey Siri, play audiobook The Thursday Murder Club on Books”

I’m kind of surprised it has taken Apple this long to support what seems like such a basic audio function. I really wish they would add understanding of podcast episodes and book chapters though, right now you can’t really navigate within podcasts or books in any meaningful way using Siri.