Thursday, May 13, 2021
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Google adds accessibility-focused ‘Live Caption’ feature to Chrome

What just happened? Google’s “Live Caption” technology is an incredibly useful feature, but so far, it’s been exclusive to Android smartphones, effectively blocking most people from accessing it. Fortunately, that’s changing today: all Google Chrome users can now benefit from Live Captions, which will automatically generate real-time subtitles for just about any audio you can generate in a browser.

That means podcasts, social media, video sites, “radio content,” and most browser-based video or audio chat services and clients will be supported, even if they already have built-in captioning tech. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect perfection here, but it seems to work well enough, and it’s certainly a step forward for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

Functionally speaking, the feature isn’t particularly complicated to use. Once it’s turned on, Chrome will simply display a small overlay over your browser window when it detects audio from a supported source. Captions will show up in this overlay, but you can minimize or close it at will — if, for example, you’d prefer to use built-in subtitles instead.

Switching on Live Captions is pretty simple. Just visit your browser settings in Chrome, navigate to the Accessibility menu, and turn on the toggle for Live Caption. Notably, Live Captions work entirely on-device — Google says they never have to leave your computer, and can even work offline if you play audio or video files from your hard drive via your browser.

For now, Live Caption only supports English, but it’s available “globally,” as well as across all Windows, Mac, and Linux devices, provided you’re running the latest version of Chrome.

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