11 September 2012 ~ Comments

Google+ Captions

Google has become a pervasive part of our world. The word itself has entered our lexicon as a verb, and Google is on the path to powering everything from phones to televisions to driverless cars. While Google+ hasn’t yet reached the household name status of Facebook, the company may be taking a giant leap forward by adding captioning to its Google+ Hangout feature.

Hangout uses video and audio (and now text) to allow people to be in virtual social contact via webcam. Whether in the next room, across town or across the world, users can chat face-to-face just as if they were hanging out in real life.

Hangout Captions, initially rolled out in July, opens up that same opportunity for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. That’s enormous, considering that up to 14 percent of the U.S. population has some sort of significant hearing loss, according to available federal data.

Granted, many of those individuals are 65+ and perhaps not as reliant on technology as younger generations, but who says Grandma and Grandpa can’t get on the Google train to chat with the family across the country?

The Hangout Captions app creates a transcript of the conversation using one of two options. Users can read a transcript created by a professional transcriptionist, or type into a text box and make their own running commentary. The transcript is created manually, either by the live stenographer or by users. It doesn’t use automatic speech recognition. The app can be downloaded at no cost on the Google+ site.

Google+ also recently gave users the option to add captions to videos they upload to the site. The move toward inclusiveness isn’t just a benefit for users, but perhaps also for the company, which is enlarging its market share simply by giving the people what they want.

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