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(Pocket-lint) - When you are deaf or have hearing loss, technology can be difficult.

In 30+ years, there will be 900 million people with hearing loss, according to The World Health Organization. And it's quite stunning to see the needs of such a large section of the population ignored. It's not easy to understand people who are mumbling on the phone, for instance, and videos without captions are the worst. Luckily, Google is stepping up to the plate.

It offers two Android features (and apps) for the deaf and hearing-impaired called Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.

What is Google Live Transcribe?

Google's Dimitri Kanevsky, a deaf research scientist with 30 years of experience in speech recognition and communications technology, once created a service, called CART, where a captioner virtually joins a meeting to listen and create a transcription of spoken dialogue that displays on a computer screen. Kanevsky's teammate, Chet Gnegy, noticed CART meant having to use multiple devices, and it was primarily only good for use in meetings. CART, therefore, wasn't ideal for everyday conversations.

So, Gnegy and Google went about building a better tool for Kanevsky.

They wanted to use cloud-based automatic speech recognition that could display spoken words on a screen. The result is Live Transcribe, an app for Android. It takes speech and turns it into real-time captions using just your phone’s mic.

Live Transcribe, which is available in over 70 languages and dialects, enables two-way conversation via a type-back keyboard for users who can’t or don’t want to speak, according to Google. The app also works with external mics to improve transcription accuracy.

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Getting started

Live Transcribe is already installed on Pixel phones and select other Android phones. If you don't have it, download it from Play Store.

To turn on Live Transcribe, follow these steps:

  1. You must first enable it to work in your device's Accessibility Settings menu.
    • Open your device's Settings app.
    • Tap Accessibility, then tap Live Transcribe.
    • Tap Open Live Transcribe.
    • To accept the permissions, tap OK.
    • Optional: Change your Live Transcribe shortcut.
  2. Now, you can start a Live Transcribe from the accessibility button on the nav bar.
    • To start Live Transcribe, use your Live Transcribe shortcut (two-finger swipe up, or tap the Accessibility button).
    • Make sure that you're connected to the internet.
    • Hold your device microphone near the person or sound that you want to capture.

Need more help? Check out Google's support page for more details. Google also has a Live Transcribe webpage here.

Availability

In 2019, Live Transcribe began rolling out as a limited beta to users worldwide via the Play Store and pre-installed on Pixel 3 devices. It's now widely (and automatically) available to Pixel 3 and newer devices and select Android devices running 5.0 and up.

What is Google Sound Amplifier?

Google offers another accessibility app called Sound Amplifier. The idea is that everyone could use an audio boost, especially when there’s a lot of background noise like at an airport. Sound Amplifier, first announced at I/O 2019, works on Android smartphones with wired headphones. It can filter, augment, and amplify the sounds in your environment, according to Google.

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Getting started

Live Transcribe is already installed on Pixel phones and select other Android phones. If you don't have it, download it from Play Store.

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To turn on Live Transcribe, follow these steps:

  1. To use Sound Amplifier, first connect a pair of wired or Bluetooth headphones to your device.
  2. To customise the sound and noise reduction, go to Sound Amplifier's settings menu.
    • Open your device's Settings app.
    • Tap Accessibility, then tap Sound Amplifier.
    • Tap Open Sound Amplifier.
    • To accept the permissions, tap OK.
    • Optional: Change your Sound Amplifier shortcut. Learn about accessibility shortcuts
  3. To start Sound Amplifier, use your Sound Amplifier shortcut (two-finger swipe up, or tap the Accessibility button).
    • Move the sliders and toggles until you're satisfied with the sound quality.

Need more help? Check out Google's support page for more details. Google also has a Sound Amplifier blog post here.

Availability

Sound Amplifier launched on Play Store in 2019. It supports Android devices and comes pre-installed on Pixel 3 and newer phones.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.