Google Brings New Accessibility Apps to Android

Posted on February 4, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 5 Comments

Google today announced two useful new accessibility apps for Android aimed at the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

“We believe in the power of technology to help break down barriers and make life a little easier for everyone,” Google’s Brian Kemler writes. “Today, we’re introducing two new apps for Android designed to help deaf and hard-of-hearing people: Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.”

Live Transcribe works like the live captioning you see on TV, but is interactive: It translates live speech to on-screen text in over 70 languages and dialects, enabling two-way speech via a type-back keyboard for those who don’t wish to (or can’t) speak. Live Transcribe is rolling out today in a limited beta worldwide, and is preinstalled on Pixel 3 handsets. You can sign-up to be notified when it’s more broadly available.

Sound Amplifier works with wired headphones to filter, augment and amplify the sounds in your environment. It pumps up the volume of quiet sounds while not over-boosting loud sounds. And you can customize it to your needs, applying noise reduction to minimize distracting background noise. This app is available now in the Play Store for Android handsets running version 9 or newer, and it comes preinstalled on Pixel 3 handsets.

“With both Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, our goal is to help the hundreds of millions of people who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate more clearly,” Kemler continues.

Given my experience with my deaf son, who uses cochlear implants, lip-reading, and sign language to communicate with others, I can tell you that these apps—unlike certain misguided Microsoft accessibility efforts, like Cortana screeching during Windows Setup—address real-world problems that impact many, many people. And that they are, thus, both well-intentioned and truly useful. Bravo, Google.

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Google Brings New Accessibility Apps to Android”

  1. nicholas_kathrein

    iOS gets lots of praise for these kinds of things built into iOS. I'm hoping they can fold the apps into Android by making them part of the stock apps package or or adding this to the settings section where you can turn it on and have these features.

  2. bharris

    What I find incredible is not that long ago, a dedicated hand held device that could transcribe speech in real time would have cost thousands because of the specialized nature and limited market. To be able to buy a cheap phone & run this free software is game changing

    • harmjr

      In reply to bharris:

      Yes it is. But like with dictation does it require an internet connection or can it work in slower network speeds. I found personally that dictation via keyboard in Chrome or Microsoft is great but is worthless with out it being able to call back to the mother ships.

  3. bluvg

    It's like compression applied to real-life, 24/7....

  4. markbyrn

    The Sound Amplifier feature seems to be like the iOS AirPod live listen; will the media call it a spy tool? ;)