With Morse code, Gboard becomes a bit more accessible for people with disabilities, and Google wants that feature to come to more devices. As such, the search company just confirmed that it's headed to Gboard for iOS.
Google first introduced Morse code into the Android version of the keyboard app shortly after its I/O developers conference keynote this past May. Alongside its debut on iOS, the company says it's bringing a lot of enhancements to the Android experience as well.
Morse Code On Gboard
Morse code replaces the traditional keyboard layout with just two huge panels, one of which has a dot icon, and the other a dash. As the user taps on those icons, Google will provide word suggestions, just as it does on a regular language keyboard.
To make it much easier for people to learn Morse code, Google has also launched an experiment that it says can teach people to learn Morse code in just under an hour. The experiment is both available on mobile and desktop. Of course, mastering the eccentricities and nuances of Morse code will probably take longer than that, but Google's solution could help get the ball rolling.
Tania Finlayson, an assistive tech developer who collaborated with Google on the Morse code project, explains in a blog post how the communication system has been a "revolutionary" part of her life. Most technologies, she explains, are aimed at the mass market. However, that means people with disabilities are often left out of consideration.
Developing Features For People With Disabilities
"Developing communication tools like this is important, because for many people, it simply makes life livable," she says.
Finlayson was born with cerebral palsy, and she recalls how doctors had told her parents she wouldn't amount to anything.
"Luckily, my parents did not take the advice, raised me like a normal child, and did not expect any less of me throughout my childhood," she added.
Finlayson and her parents persisted despite the condition, and several years later, she was chosen to participate in a study involving non-verbal children. There, she learned morse code and eventually, her experience landed her a partnership with Google.
Perhaps the next innovation companies should focus on are implementing broader accessibility features for people with disabilities. The problem is that only some are more willing than others.
Apple, for example, has long been offering a number of accessibility options on its devices, including VoiceOver. Sure, slimmer bezels and five cameras on a phone sound pretty innovative, but what's the point if other people won't be able to use it?