In June of last year, we showed off the Live Caption feature in Chrome via a flag in the Canary channel. It allows you to auto-caption live speech from audio sources using the same technology that Pixel phones have had for a while now. It’s a fantastic feature that seeks to make Chrome OS more accessible to more users, and now, it’s finally close to release!
Upon visiting the Chrome Flags page –
https://chrome://flags – and searching for ‘Captions’, you will be presented with the Live Captions option. After enabling it, just restart your Chromebook, turn on ‘Live Caption’ in the global media controls section of your Chromebook or browser and then launch a Youtube video or some other form of audio. A black box will appear on the screen with an automatic transcription of the words being spoken. Keep in mind that this is not taken from a text file provided by closed captioning – it’s all done on the fly with machine learning, which is what makes it so useful!
You can use this awesome feature on Chromebooks via Chrome OS 88 Stable, and the Chrome browser on Windows, and macOS via Chrome 88 just by toggling the flag as we discussed above. You should know, however, that if you pause your audio source that’s being captioned, and then resume it, the captions themselves will need to be manually toggled off and then on again via the browser’s global media control section (see below for Desktop). This is just a small bug that will be ironed out before the feature’s full release with no flag needed, which should be very soon given its appearance on Chrome Stable.
As you can see from the image above, Live Captions are only available in English at this time. If you’re using a Chromebook, you’ll need to enable or disable them a little differently. To do so, just visit the Settings app on your device and type ‘Caption’ in the search bar to locate the options for it. You can then customize how they appear, including their font, font size, color, and opacity. The box behind them will also be customizable!
The Nest Hub and other smart displays with Google Assistant built-in recently received more Live Caption languages, so it’s super cool to see this feature appear and continue to improve across Google’s hardware ecosystem. Also, I’m happy to see more Pixel features coming directly to Chromebooks – just earlier today, the Pixel Recorder gained a web application that will soon allow users to access their audio clips across devices without the need to share them manually to Google Drive first.
What Pixel features do you hope Chromebooks get a taste of next? I think that with Phone Hub, Google is testing a lot of cross-pollination with these features so that one day their users can jump between devices with fewer compromises, similar to what Apple has been known for over the years.