Captions make online content more accessible, but if you’re a Chrome user, the new Live Caption generates captions in your browser in real-time – whether you’re online or off.
How many times have you tried to watch a video when in a noisy environment, trying to keep the volume down, wishing there was some form of closed captioning that would make it easy to understand? Captions make online content more accessible, and ”they are absolutely essential if you’re part of the 466 million people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. Then having captions lets you follow along to whatever content you are watching — whether it’s viral feta pasta videos, breaking news or a scientist discussing their latest research.”
The note above was shared by Emily Scharff, Product Manager, Chrome & Chrome OS Accessibility and Madan Kompalli Product Manager, Speech in a recent Chrome’s blog post. They add that “unfortunately, captions aren’t always available for every piece of content” to then share the news that now, 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.
From smartphones to Chrome
Live Caption automatic captioning system first appeared in 2019, inside Google’s smartphones. The Pixel 4 version officially introduced, allowing users to automatically caption videos and spoken audio on their devices (except phone and video calls). An accessibility feature that is helpful whether you’re on a loud commuter train, trying not to wake a baby, or want to follow along the conversation more closely, Live Caption was added to Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL smartphones with the introduction to other Android smartphones happening in 2020. Now it’s time for Chrome to get Live Caption.
It was only a little over a decade ago that YouTube videos got automatic captions, and while we’ve come a long way, the technology has not been available on other types of content like audio messages from your friends, trending videos on social media feeds or even the stuff you record yourself. Live Caption expansion to Chrome makes automatic caption more accessible for many people, from those who simply forgot their headphones at home to those who withe hearing problems.
Laura D’Aquila, a software engineer on Google Workspace who is hard of hearing, tested out the feature early on. “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.”
Testing Live Caption
These captions in Chrome are created on-device, which allows the captions to appear as the content plays without ever having to leave your computer. Live Caption also works offline, so you can even caption audio and video files saved on your hard drive when you play them in Chrome.
Different tests with online and offline audio and video files reveal that Live Caption does not always work, but deactivating and activating the app apparently makes it work again. One thing to keep in mind is that Live Caption only understands English now, although more languages are expected to be added in the future, as users are already asking for that option. One thing that Live Caption does not allow it to copy the created text to use elsewhere, which could be an added advantage to this kind of tool.
To turn on Live Caption in Chrome from your desktop, go to Chrome Settings, click on the Advanced section, then go to the Accessibility section. The feature currently supports English, as noted 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.