Google’s real-time Live Captions feature is now available to anyone using a Chrome web browser instead of just for Pixel phone users.
Live Captions is an accessibility feature that uses machine learning to generate (on-device) real-time captions for videos or audio. The feature enables those in a noisy environment, trying to keep the volume down, or those who are deaf or hard of hearing, to follow along with whatever content they are watching.
Live captions had previously been a feature on (Android) Pixel 4 phones (2019), and in August 2020 Google extended Live Caption for Calls on the Pixel 2, 3, 3a, 4 and 4a.
Now on Chrome Everywhere
Now Chrome users on any device can enable Live Caption and generate real-time captions for media with audio on the browser. The feature works across social and video sites, podcasts and radio content, personal video libraries (e.g. Google Photos), embedded video players, and most web-based video or audio chat services.
Google says that Live Captions currently supports English and is available globally on the newest release of Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. The feature will also be coming soon to ChromeOS.
Enabling Live Captions
To turn on Live Captions in desktop, Chrome users need to go to Settings, click on the Advanced section, and go to the Accessibility section and switch the ‘Live Caption’ toggle to ‘on’.
Other Accessibility Features
Back in October (National Disability Employment Awareness Month), Google highlighted many other new and existing accessibility features in Chrome Browser and Chrome OS. These included the ability to change the cursor to improve its visibility on Chrome OS, change the background text in select-to-speak to make it easier to focus on the spoken text, as well as Voice Switching to change the screen reader’s voice based on the language of the text being read in the ChromeVox screen reader. Google also highlighted the feature that enables users to change the size of everything on the website they visit (content and font sizes), zoom, and magnify feature for the entire screen/specific parts of the screen, and a number of useful extensions.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
One billion people, or 15 per cent of the world’s population, have some form of a disability (The World Bank, Disability Inclusion Overview), and 466 million people in the world are deaf or hard of hearing. It makes financial sense, therefore, for businesses, like Google, to reach an additional 15 per cent of people and improve ROI. Also, inclusivity and meeting the needs of diverse populations is a good business strategy today, especially for a global business that deals in large numbers. Given that this feature had already proved itself on the phone version of the browser it was only a short step to introduce it to desktop and obtain a big boost in value and good publicity for Google. Incorporating accessibility features of this kind in services is not only good for revenue, reputation, and user convenience, but it also helps fulfil legal obligations and can be another source of competitive advantage.
This feature also has applications beyond serving those with hearing challenges as it recognises that many modern human and situational environments can be noisy or require people to be quiet while working and/or browsing the Internet, and that people may even be doing two things ate once (e.g. listening to music and browsing the Internet). This gives the feature even greater value to a wide range of users.