Talking tech since 2003

If you’re running the iOS 7 beta on your iPhone or iPad, this is probably something you’re going to want to try out. Apple has evidently added a new feature in the Accessibility menu’s “Switch Control” section that enables users to control a selector on screen and choose items using nothing more than head movements. This feature, discovered by 9 to 5 Mac, is presumably included for those who require total hands-free operation of their iDevice.

ios-7-accessibility-switch-controlAn interesting development, though, is that you aren’t just limited to selecting — you can also assign a head movement that launches Siri, opens the multitasking menu, displays the notification center, increases or decreases volume and more. At the moment, only head movements are included and iOS only recognizes a right movement and a left movement, so those two are the only available gestures. But iOS 7 is beta, after all, and that could mean more hands-free gestures could land in the final version of the operating system this fall.

In case you’re wondering, I did try the feature out myself and it’s probably not one Apple considers anywhere near complete. The detection is hit or miss, leaning more toward miss, and my iPad was constantly telling me that my face was too close. Still, Apple has time to tweak it and get it functioning properly, and if it does ship with the final version of iOS 7, it’ll be a welcome addition for those who really need it.

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might also believe that this switch control feature is also Apple paving the way for gesture-based controls on its devices. Based on how those have gone over so far with the Galaxy S4, however, I’m not sure Apple is ready to include its iPhones and iPads in a world of eye tracking and motion-based scrolling. These features haven’t exactly been reliable on the S4, generally being more trouble than they’re worth, and if Apple’s progress on similar features in the beta is any indication, these aren’t easy features to pull off. Apple is better off waiting for a while and I believe that’s what the company will do.

Interested in turning this feature on yourself? First off, you’ll need to be running the latest iOS 7 beta, which is beta 2. Next, you’ll have to open up the Settings menu, tap General, then tap Accessibility, and then Switch Control. You can add and edit the “Switches” — actions initiated by head motions — in the Switches section and then turn Switch Control on at the top of the menu. And, just in case you want to bail because you can’t figure out how to retake your device (this happened to me), here’s an easy fix: quickly press the home button three times to turn off Switch Control.

If you plan on trying this out yourself, I’d love to know what you think of it. Drop us a line below.

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