[Update: Chrome Flag] Google Chrome could be getting its own Live Caption feature
Back at Google I/O last year, the company announced a new tool in Android 10 called Live Caption. As the name suggests, the tool is designed to automatically provide captions for audio that’s playing on your device. It works with videos, podcasts, audio messages, and other supported media, making it a great accessibility tool for the hearing impaired. On top of that, the tool can also be used to help improve the video watching experience in loud environments. Now, according to a commit spotted on the Chromium Gerrit (via ChromeUnboxed), it seems like the Google Chrome team is working to bring the feature to the browser.
The commit in question is for the SODA (Speech On-Device API) service which is crucial to get live captions to work on the browser. The description of the commit reads, “This CL creates a sandboxed service that hosts the Speech On-Device API (SODA). It contains the components required to launch the service from the renderer process, but the implementation of the service itself is stubbed out. The design document for the feature is located at: go/chrome-live-captions.” SODA is a first-party product made by Google’s Speech team that transcribes audio into text. The name of the design doc references “Live Caption,” and several methods and constants in one of the Chromium commits also hint at this.
In one of the comments, a Googler explicitly compares this feature to the one on Android and says, “I think we should use “Live Captions” when using a name for the feature to match what’s done on Android.” However, Google wants SODA to be used for more than just Live Captions, based on a comment from another Googler who states, “Based on our discussion with the ChromeOS team, it sounds like they have other speech recognition scenarios they may want to build in the future. The benefit of naming this SODA is that other features can use this component, though it could be seen as a leaky abstraction.”
Google has currently released no information about the upcoming feature but based on the aforementioned information we can safely assume that it will work much like Android 10’s Live Caption feature once released. As of now though, the feature is still in its early stages of development and it will be quite a while before it makes it to a stable release of Google Chrome.
Update 1: Google Chrome Flag
When this article was first published back in mid-February, we only saw hints that Live Caption functionality would make its way to desktop Chrome. Now, a commit has been merged that brings a Google Chrome flag to the mix. This flag is intended to test the feature in Canary builds by adding an easily controllable toggle in Chrome’s settings. The toggle can be enabled by first enabling the flag at chrome://flags#enable-accessibility-live-captions and then enabling the “Live Captions” toggle in Chrome’s Accessibility settings. The captions UI can then be customized in Windows 10 settings. The captions box can also be moved around on the screen. Currently, the captions box only displays a single static string, so it isn’t currently working. We will monitor this feature and report back when it starts working, though.
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