How Apple Made the Watch Work for Wheelchair Users
By: Fast Company
In America alone, there are more than 2.2 million people who depend upon wheelchairs to get around every day. But most wheelchair users aren't active. They're more sedentary, on average, than those who have full use of their legs—and are consequently at much greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
Amazon is currently selling more than 1,000 different models of fitness trackers online. But how many support wheelchair users, an enormous demographic in desperate need of sophisticated tools to manage and encourage fitness?
None. Zero. Zilch. Up until now.
Two weeks ago, Apple made a seemingly small announcement at its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference. Starting in September, the Apple Watch will support wheelchair users, allowing them to track their fitness goals the same as anyone else. But this feature is a big deal to the millions of people around the world who live their lives in wheelchairs. It was also an incredible technical challenge to pull off, requiring Apple to mount the most comprehensive study ever on fitness among wheelchair users, as well as a complete overhaul to the design of its fitness tracking algorithms.
We spoke to Apple's Ron Huang, director of software engineering for location and motion technologies, to get an inside look at how Cupertino made the Apple Watch's wheelchair tracking features possible.