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Google Meet Boosts Accessibility by Adding Live Captions to Android App

Live captioning is an accessibility feature that makes Google’s web conferencing unique compared to competitors. Text captioning of web conferences held on other software is possible, but often only through the addition of a third-party solution and, even more often, not in a live conversation. Here, we see Google flexing its machine learning muscle and bringing the natural language processing capability it’s shown off in other products to its web conferencing app. As a result, hearing-impaired users will be able to join in more conversations.

Above: Google Meet’s live captions feature on the Meet Android app.

Courtesy: G Suite Updates Blog, September 16, 2019

Users of the Hangouts Meet desktop experience have been able to access live captions through their web browsers since April. Now they’ll be able to turn those captions on with just one click, as Google says it’s also updating the web interface.

No action is required on the part of admins for Meet or web conference hosts. It’s up to individual end users to turn on the feature in the Meet interface. Android users that are also English language users will see the button on the top right of the Meet app. Non-English language users will have to tap the three-dot menu button to find it.

Google says it is still working to add live captions to the Meet iOS app and plans to make the feature available soon.

Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at Software Reviews, Report Published April 10, 2019

Our Take

Making web conferencing more accessible is necessary to ensure work environments are welcoming to a wider diversity of participants. The live captioning offered by Google is a feature that other web conferencing providers should work to support natively, without the need for a third-party solution. Competitor Zoom is one example of a vendor that offers live captions across all of its versions, including Android and iOS apps.

Not only is live captioning helpful to those who are hearing-impaired, but a wide range of users choose to use captions to improve their comprehension, including those working in a language that is not their mother tongue and people who just find it helpful. Do you or anyone you know ever turn on the closed captioning when watching a movie, even though you can hear it just fine?

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