Google Tests Bringing Live Captions To Chrome Desktop

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Google is now hard at work testing features to bring Live Captions from mobile to Chrome browser. Spotted behind an experimental setting at the "chrome://flags" URL by TechDows, the new feature does exactly what its branding implies. As on mobile devices, turning the feature on will add AI-derived captions in real-time to any video content played on the platform.

More precisely, the feature appears in accessibility settings. It automatically detects speech in content that's being played when activated. This appears to be in the works for all desktop platforms. That's from Chrome OS-based Chromebooks through Windows, Linux, and macOS.

How can you access Live Captions in Google Chrome in testing?

Turning on and using the new Live Captions feature in Google Chrome is fairly straightforward. Or at least it is on anything other than a Chromebook. That's because it's current iteration only appears in the Canary Channel. Putting Chromebooks into Canary is an in-depth process that requires a full device wipe. So it will be best to wait for a Stable release on those devices.

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For other desktop platforms, the first step is to download Chrome Canary. That can be run side-by-side with standard Chrome. So there's no risk of unwanted bugs if those happen to appear in the Canary build.

From there, users will need to navigate to the above-mentioned "chrome://flags" page and use the on-page search. A search for "Live Captions" will bring forward the requisite flag, which needs to be set to enabled. Then, users will need to use the "relaunch" button at the bottom of the page or close and restart Chrome Canary.

Typically, that would be the final step for new features in Chrome but, as already noted, this is an accessibility feature. That means it's intended for use by those who are hard-of-hearing or who otherwise need captions. So it will need to be turned on after being activated.

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That can be accomplished by navigating to the three-dot menu icon at the top-right-hand side of the page. Scrolling down to "Settings" and then to "Advanced" within settings will bring forward the requisite option. That's labeled "Accessibility."

Conversely, users can navigate to "chrome://settings/accessibility" and turn it on from there. A toggle will be presented to turn on Live Captions. Now, AI-generated captions should appear in any video content displayed in Chrome.

There will be bugs and some content may not work

Now, because this is an experimental feature in an experimental version of Chrome, bugs are all but guaranteed. So users shouldn't expect a perfect experience either from the Canary browser or from this feature. Most likely, the biggest drawback to using this while it's still in its infancy is going to be a lack of support. Namely, it likely isn't going to work on every site or for every video.

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There's also no way to gauge exactly when — or if — the feature will ever appear in the Stable Channel for Chrome. There have been features tested in the past and then abandoned, so that wouldn't be anything new if it happened here.

The next update to Google's Chrome is set to start on May 19 but that doesn't leave a lot of time to finalize the feature either. At the earliest, this might be expected to arrive with Chrome 84 on July 14 — July 21 for Chromebooks.