When Google introduced the next version of its Android operating system at its Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, Calif. Tuesday, it also previewed a new feature that could give a massive boost to video viewing on the go: Live Caption will allow Android users to turn on captions for any video running on their devices, whether these videos come with native closed captioning or not.
Google billed Live Caption as an accessibility feature that is meant to simplify video viewing for an estimated 466 million deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide. “We believe technology can help us be more inclusive,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
However, the feature could also help anyone who is watching videos on the go without headphones, whether it’s an Instagram video viewed on the subway or a TikTok clip watched while waiting in line.
Live Caption even works for downloaded videos that are viewed on a plane, or in any other scenario without internet access. That’s because Google is using on-device artificial intelligence, something that also adds an extra layer of privacy to the captioning process.
“As soon as speech is detected, captions will appear, without ever needing Wifi or cell phone data, and without any audio or captions leaving your phone,” the company explained in a blog post Tuesday.
Users will still have to enable the feature in a setup menu, and can then access it via the volume menu, according to The Verge. Live Caption will also work for audio sources that don’t come with video, like podcasts.
Separately, the company announced that it had begun to try live captioning for phone calls, which are meant to make calls more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing users.
The new live caption feature will be available via Android Q, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system. Google announced Tuesday that it was making a beta version of Android Q available on 21 devices from 13 manufacturers, including LG, Sony and Huawei, as well as its own Pixel phones, effective immediately. The final version of Android Q is expected to launch this fall.