One of the great things about Pixel phones is that Google finds ways to add all sorts of new software tricks to the handsets that aren’t available elsewhere on Android. Or they’re not available right away. One such example is the Live Caption accessibility feature that Google unveiled almost two years ago, at I/O 2019. The feature worked initially only on Pixel hardware, offering real-time caption support to any audio and video file on the device, whether it was something from a streaming site, YouTube, or a video from the photos gallery. The Live Caption is a great accessibility feature for anyone suffering from hearing problems. But it’s also a feature that can come in handy if you want to watch videos with subtitles on sites that do not support them or if you can’t use audio and headphones aren’t handy.
First found by xda-developers, the feature is already packed into the latest Chrome 89 build. You’ll need to enable it by heading over to Settings, Advanced, and Accessibility. Look for the Live Caption feature, and enable it.
Once you flip the switch, Chrome will download speech recognition files needed for the feature. After the download is done, the Live Caption feature will work automatically on any website where there’s embedded media. It works with audio and video files, with the Live Caption window appearing on top of the Chrome tab that’s currently in use.
You can resize it and close it if you don’t need it. One user interface issue concerns this aspect. Once you close the Live Caption window, there’s no way to bring it back. You’ll have to refresh the entire website to get it back. xda says that a toggle for Live Caption will show up in the Chrome toolbar, allowing users to turn it on or off without going into the Settings again.
The fact that Live Caption starts automatically on any site is also somewhat of an issue. You won’t need to use it on sites like YouTube, Netflix, and any other streaming service that comes with built-in Live Caption/subtitles. As you can see in the example above, Live Caption lags compared to the Netflix subtitles, and you’ll want to turn the window off.
One great thing about Live Caption is that it works even if you mute your computer, so you can use it in conditions when playing sound isn’t allowed or advised.
The Live Caption only works with English content right now, but that’s still a great start. Support for more languages might follow down the road.
To test it out, you’ll need to make sure you’re on the latest version of Google’s browser. Chrome 89 was released a few days ago, and it’s available to download on Windows 10 and macOS.