Why Live Text in iOS 15 is Great for Schools

hand holding a space gray iPhone
Photo by Bagus Hernawan on Unsplash

In its annual update for its mobile devices, Apple has prepared a buffet of new features for iOS 15. There are lots of innovative ideas here, but the one that stood out the most for me is the new Live Text feature. I think it could be a great option for schools and anyone else that is looking to extract text from an image. In this post, I will show you how it works and why it could be a bigger deal than some people have given it credit for.

What is Live Text?

Live Text is a brand new feature that is built-in to iOS 15. It uses matching learning to recognize text in an image so that you can interact with it in new ways. It works in a couple of different ways. If you open the camera app and hold it over a business card, your iPhone or iPad will recognize that there is a phone number and let you tap on the screen to make a phone call.

The second way to use Live Text is to take a picture of something that has text on it. This can be typed text or even handwritten text, but it generally works better on printed text. When it recognizes the text in the photo you can copy and paste that text into another app or, perhaps more interestingly, have it read aloud.

Live Text demo on a paper document that was captured with the iOS camera

Why is it Great for Schools?

Unfortunately, not everything we put in front of students is an accessible format for every student. For instance, a paper worksheet can only be read by someone with the necessary reading skills. For students with reading disabilities, visual perception problems, or those for whom English is not their first language, this paper worksheet is not very accessible. In fact, it is a barrier to their learning.

Live Text gives these students, and many more, the ability to have that paper worksheet read aloud, but it’s not just for paper worksheets. Textbooks, anchor charts on the wall, peer review texts, and even the name of the student that is taped to the desk next to them can all be read aloud with Live Text.

How to Use Live Text

Here’s how to get started using Live Text on an iPhone or iPad.

  1. Open the Camera app on a compatible iOS device that is running iOS 15
  2. Take a picture of something that has text on it
  3. Open the Photos app to find the picture you just took
  4. Tap the Live Text icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the image to show the text that can be recognizes in this image
  5. Press and hold one of the words to select the text you want to hear
  6. Next, tap Speak to have the text read aloud

If you don’t see the option to “Speak” text, head over to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content and turn on Speak Selection. You can also change voices here and the speaking rate. Try the Siri voices for the best quality.

When is it Available?

iOS 15 is available for download on September 20, 2021. However, it is not going to work on every device that runs iOS 15. You need a device with an A12 processor or newer. This is because of the on-device processing power that is needed to make this particular feature work.

The A12 debuted in the iPhone XS, so if you have that, or something newer than that, your iPhone is good to go. For the iPad, you need an 8th or 9th generation iPad, a 5th or 6th generation iPad Mini, a 3rd or 4th generation iPad Air, and any iPad Pro from 2018 or later.

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