The Chrome developer team has been working on a new accessibility feature over the past few months and now, we’re getting our first glimpses of what it will look like in the flesh. First spotted back in February, the work being done appears to bring Android’s Live Caption feature to Chrome and by default, Chrome OS. In April, Techdows found the experimental feature hidden behind a flag in the Canary build of Chrome and it has since graduated to the Developer channels. As with Android, the feature will allow users to enable live captioning for any audio that is playing on their devices.
Currently, enabling the flag does little more than add the feature to the Chrome/Chrome OS settings menu. Enabling the flag and toggling the Live Caption switch will create a pop-up box on any web-based window that you open and as you can see in the image below, there’s nothing but a placeholder that says “Live Caption” as the feature is still a work in progress. That said, its recent promotion to the Developer channel is a good sign that it will be here relatively soon and today I discovered another update that will give users the ability to customize their Live Caption experience.
As I was poking around the Canary Channel, I re-enabled Live Captioning to see if the feature might actually be working. Sad to say, it isn’t but I quickly noticed that the settings menu in Chrome OS has changed drastically. Below, you can see the new settings menu for Live Captions on Chrome OS in the right image. On the left, is the Closed Captions menu for Windows 10. It appears that Google is taking some cues from the feature that has been present in Windows for years. In the menu, you can change the text font, color, and size as well as change the amount of shadow on the text and the opacity and color of the text background.
Live Captions will be an awesome addition to Chrome and Chrome OS for users with hearing disabilities but the use cases don’t stop there. Chrome will extend live captions to any audio playing on your device. If this can integrate to live conferencing applications like Duo or Meet, it could replace third-party applications like Otter.ai and others. Regardless of how it fleshes out, Live Captions will be a welcome and much-needed addition to Chrome and the Chrome operating system.