Many people are familiar with closed captioning, maybe from TV shows or online videos. When captions are not provided, however, millions of Americans are left out of the audio portion of videos. This is the problem that Live Caption from Google works to solve, by creating real-time captions, a feature that may soon be coming to Chrome on desktop.
There are approximately 48 million people in the United States that report hearing loss to some degree. Many of them require captioning on videos to understand what’s been spoken (and other sounds happening).
Many people without hearing loss also use captions in different circumstances, such as at work, in loud surroundings, or where noise would bother others. About 41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound or captions.
Now, there’s a new captioning feature that's believed to be coming to the Chrome browser. Here's what Live Caption is and how it can help make content more accessible, but also a reminder that video producers should still add accurate captioning.
What is Live Caption?
Live Caption is a feature available from Google that creates real-time captions for videos, podcasts, or even voice notes on a phone. It's currently available on some Android phones.
When this setting is on, Live Caption will detect audio playing on a phone and automatically start captioning on the phone screen. It will caption videos, podcasts, Instagram shows, and a few other audio tracks, but will not caption music or phone calls.
This is not the same as Google’s Live Transcribe, which is a separate downloadable app for transcribing spoken speech to text.
Where is Live Caption Currently Available?
Currently, Live Caption is available on a few Android phone models.
To turn this feature on will depend on your phone:
- Pixel: 3, 3XL, 3A, 3AXL, 4, 4XL. Go to Settings > Sound > Live Caption. Slide the switch to the On position.
- Galaxy: S20, S20 Plus, S20 Ultra. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Enhancements > Live Caption. Slide the switch to the On position.
Please note it’s not available on all Android phones and users need the Android 10 system for this feature to be available.
Live Caption Coming to Google Chrome
Program developers using Chrome Canary (a version of Chrome that’s still testing out features) can enable the Live Caption feature on their browsers, but since it’s a “hidden” feature, it means Chrome is still testing it out as there are still some stability issues.
The information that's currently available indicates the Google team is still working on developing it further and that it may get pushed to the public before too long.
If this happens, it means that many Chrome browser users will have access to captioning on countless files on the internet.
Still Caption Your Own Videos
Live Caption will be a huge jump in online accessibility for internet users who are deaf and hard of hearing, and for anyone who chooses to use it.
Please keep in mind that just because this option is available doesn't mean that it will work fully or on all videos. A tool like this has enormous value for the end user, but it does not excuse the video creator from accessibility obligations. Accuracy, availability, and other concerns will always be tied to automatic accessibility features. This also would not help users on devices or browsers that don't have Live Caption available.