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Google launches Live Captions on Google Chrome!

Image shows generic podcast website mock-up with a black caption window at the bottom and white lines mimicking text.
Generic podcast website mock-up with a black caption window at the bottom and white lines mimicking text.

Exciting news for all people who are hard of hearing or deaf! Google just launched their live captions technology for the web, a big step forward in terms of accessibility of the internet for all people with disabilities.

In 2019, Google started to offer live captioning for Android devices, creating access to content across mobile platforms on Android phones. Beginning March 18th 2021, the same technology will also be available across the web when using the Google Chrome browser. If the feature is enabled, it will generate automatic captions throughout the internet.

This new feature comes as a positive surprise after recent discussions over whether users of the platform Zoom should have to pay for their closed captioning service. After being called out, Zoom decided to offer captions for all free accounts starting in the fall.

Live captions make all content more accessible, whether a person is hard of hearing or deaf or, like many others, prefers to read captions while listening to someone talking. People, who are non-native speakers of whatever language often benefit from captions, so this technology doesn’t only help people with a variety of disabilities and the deaf community, but also everyone who enjoys websites in another language than their native tongue; or maybe you are simply in a noisy environment or your surroundings don’t allow you to watch a video with sound – there are many circumstances where captions come in handy.

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However, captions aren’t always available for every piece of content. Google changes that. With Live Caption on Chrome, you can automatically generate real-time captions for media with audio on your browser. It works across social and video sites, podcasts and radio content, personal video libraries (such as Google Photos), embedded video players, and most web-based video or audio chat services.

“With Live Caption, I no longer have to miss out on watching videos because of lack of captions, and I can engage in real-life conversations with family, friends or colleagues about this content. Just recently, my coworker sent a video to our team’s chat, but it was not captioned. With Live Caption I was able to follow along and share my reactions to the video with my team,” Laura D’Aquila, a software engineer on Google Workspace, who is hard of hearing and tested out the feature, says.

The captions are created on-device, which means that the captions appear as the content plays without ever having to leave your computer. They also work offline, so you can even caption audio and video files saved on your hard drive when you play them in Chrome.

Overall, the new Live Captions on Google Chrome are one more step to eradicate online barriers for people with disabilities and adds another incredibly useful accessibility feature to their list of technologies.

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How to turn Live Captions on: 

Go to Chrome Settings, click on the Advanced section, then go to the Accessibility section. The feature currently supports English and is available globally on the latest release of Chrome on Windows, Mac and Linux devices and will be coming soon to ChromeOS. For Android devices, Live Caption is already available for any audio or video on your mobile device.  

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