Google Expands Android Accessibility With Live Transcribe And Sound Amplifier

There are hundreds of millions of people around the world today who have a hard time hearing or are completely dead. Google notes that the WHO estimates that by 2055 there will be 900 million people with hearing loss globally. To help these people hear and understand better, Google is rolling out a pair of new accessibility features for Android users called Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.

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Google research scientist Dimitri Kanevsky, who has been deaf since birth, uses a service called CART that involves a captioner virtually joining a meeting to listen and create a transcription that he can use to follow along with meetings. Kanevsky's teammate Chet Gnegy saw the difficulty involved with using CART and the fact that it can't be used for everyday conversations. That realization led Gnegy to begin collaborating with the Accessibility team to create a tool that could reduce the effort it takes for Kanevsky to prepare for conversations.

Google says that a prototype of Live Transcribe was built with the help of Google workers around the globe. Live Transcribe can take real-world speech and turn it into real-time captions using the phone's microphone. Google thinks that Live Transcribe has the potential to give people who are deaf or hard of hearing greater independence in their everyday interactions. Google says that the tool has helped Kanevsky to be closer to his family and have better interactions with people in everyday life. Google also notes that it has partnered with Gallaudet University, a premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing, and that the university has helped in the design and validation of Live Transcribe.

Live Transcribe is available in over 70 languages and enables two-way conversation with a type-back keyboard for users who can't or don't want to speak; it also connects with external microphones to improve transcription accuracy. Live Transcribe is rolling out to limited beta users via the Google Play Store and is pre-installed on Pixel 3 devices. To enable it users need to go into Accessibility Settings and start Live Transcribe from there.

Google has also announced Sound Amplifier; something first announced at Google I/O last year. The goal of this feature is to make audio clearer and easier to hear. It's available for use with wired headphones via Android devices and increase quiet sounds while not overboosting loud sounds. It sounds similar to the Apple AirPods Live Listen feature. The settings are customizable with sliders and toggles inside the Sound Amplifier settings menu. It's available on the Play Store and supports Android 9 Pie or later phones and is pre-installed on Pixel 3.