Apple has always been a great company at providing accessibility options for those with hearing or vision loss on many of their products from the Mac to the iPhone and iPad. It’s amazing to see someone who has had loss of sight pick up an iPad and use it just as well as the next person thanks to accessibility options like Voice Over. Apple has continued its work on Voice Over and brings this software, as well as other accessibility options, into version three for Lion. This new cat brings in a lot more to Voice Over, including now voices for other languages and dialects of English.
Apple first introduced Voice Over in Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” and improved on the technology in the following version with a new voice now known as Alex. Alex was realistic sounding compared to other voices that have come before him and is now the default voice you are greeted with when you first boot a Mac. Apple’s Voice Over, compared to other competing software programs you had to buy extra, was extremely well done and part of the operating system. In Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS X, you have all the same voices that have been bundled since Leopard, as well as the option to download extra international voices.
Lion now supports over 22 languages. To get to them for download, open up System Preferences on your Mac and click on Speech. Clicking on Text to Speech will get you to an area where you can customize the voice of your Mac. You’ll notice at the bottom of the list you can click on customize to download even more voices. There are different dialects for English now such as British English and South African English. Apple has also added for download voices for other languages such as Spanish and Japanese. You can add them to your Mac by checking the ones you want and then OK. Software Update should then open up and install them for you.
I use Voice Over for simple things like announcing the time and alerting me when the Mac needs my attention. Even so, it’s nice to see Apple adding voices in other dialects and bringing this assistance to others who don’t use English as their native language in this latest update. Apple has adapted Voice Over in many other products they make such as Apple TV, iPod Shuffle, and even the iPhone from the very beginning. Compared to the competition, there are not very many other companies that really pay this much attention to accessibility options. Windows users usually have to purchase such software extra and the price of equivalent software can get as expensive as just buying a Mac Mini. It will be very interesting to see if other companies do the same in their products as Apple has and work to improve them.
I’ve set my Mac’s voice to Tessa, a South African English voice. Her voice is easy to pick-up and understand even if I’m far way from my Mac. What’s your favorite in the lot, and if you speak other languages outside of English, what are your thoughts on some of the new international voices?