Tech

Google Chrome's new transcription feature creates closed captions in real-time

The accessibility feature can help people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Young woman watching television with subtitles while sitting comfortably on sofa at home in living room. Nature, green, documentary, tv screen
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Google's Live Caption accessibility feature has made its way from Android to the Chrome browser on desktops.

The feature automatically transcribes any audio in real-time so that users can, for example, follow along with a video even if they're deaf or hard of hearing — or are simply in a loud environment where it's tough to hear.

How to turn it on — According to Android Police, the feature was added in the latest version of Chrome but it's still an experimental feature. To enable it, you'll need to paste the following into your browser: chrome://flags/#enable-accessibility-live-caption

From there you simply toggle on Live Caption. Whenever audio is playing in the browser, you press a button in the omni bar to initiate real-time translations. The feature appears to work on Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS. It doesn't appear there's iOS support yet.

Here's what it looks like when a video is being transcribed:

Android Police

Android Police says that Live Caption doesn't work on YouTube unless you're using a beta build of Chrome, but presumably that should change soon.

Accessibility — These types of global accessibility features can be tremendously helpful for users who struggle to navigate sites that don't accommodate for their disabilities. Websites and apps have been addressing these issues with new accessible design principles, albeit slowly. Twitter, for instance, recently added the ability to write captions for images that can be read by a screen reader. But Google's Live Caption feature lives at a the browser level, meaning transcriptions will even be available on sites that don't directly offer them.

The feature isn't perfect — it's not always going to transcribe with perfect accuracy. But Live Caption performs fairly well in tests and should improve over time thanks to Google's machine learning technology and vast data collection apparatus.