Live Captions is one of the most useful features on Android phones, allowing your mobile device to automatically transcribe any audio it’s currently playing. And now it seems Google is bringing Live Captions to Chrome, with the feature already available as a hidden option in the browser.
First noticed by Chrome Story, Live Caption can actually be activated now in Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS versions of Chrome 88. But if you want to try out Live Captions for yourself, you’ll need to manually enable it as it’s currently still listed as an experimental feature. To activate Live Captions, you can paste this command chrome://flags/#enable-accessibility-live-caption into Chrome’s search bar, and then search for Live Captions to see the toggle option.
Once you have Live Captions turned on, you’ll be asked to relaunch Chrome. From there, to get it working, all you need to do is browse over to a video or something like a podcast in Chrome, and a small bar should automatically pop up along the bottom of the browser displaying live captions.
That said, Live Captions is still an experimental feature and there are a few bugs. The first is that it doesn’t seem to work with YouTube at all (unless you are running Chrome Canary), though that’s not necessarily a huge deal as YouTube already offers automatic closed captions for many videos.
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Additionally, depending on the audio source, transcriptions may not automatically appear as you expect or might stop working if you pause a video, so you may have to restart the Live Captions feature by turning it on and off from Chrome’s Global Media Settings controls (the music note icon in the top right corner of Chrome). And on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices, Live Captions doesn’t seem to work for audio coming from Linux or Android apps either.
Still, some bugs are to be expected for something that hasn’t been officially released yet, and even though in my experience the accuracy of Google’s Live Captions can be somewhat hit or miss, the feature is still a valuable upgrade for general accessibility.
YouTube is attempting to bridge the gap between its dedicated Kids app and regular YouTube for parents with tweens and teens.
YouTube announced Wednesday that it will launch a new “supervised” experience in beta that will introduce additional features and settings for regulating the types of content that older children can access on the platform. Content will be restricted based on the selection of one of three categories. “Explore” will introduce videos suitable for kids 9 and older, “Explore More” will bump them into a category with videos for kids 13 and older, and “Most of YouTube” will show them nearly everything except age-restricted and topics that might be sensitive to non-adults.
YouTube says it will use a blend of machine learning, human review, and user input to vet content—a system that has worked spectacularly for YouTube in the past. Seemingly trying to get out ahead of whatever issues will arise from its busted moderation system, the announcement blog stated that YouTube knows “that our systems will make mistakes and will continue to evolve over time.”
Clearly, any tool that attempts to filter inappropriate content on YouTube is welcome and necessary. But guardians cannot rely on YouTube alone to take the wheel and guide the experience of their kids. We’ve seen how well that’s worked in the past over on YouTube’s dedicated Kids app—which is to say, not great.
Part of the problem is that YouTube’s platform, like those of other social media giants, is just too big to adequately moderate. One wrong turn can send your kid down a rabbit hole of conspiracies whether they were looking for them or not. Plus, if we’re being honest, teens and tweens are probably going to find a way to watch whatever content they want to watch regardless of how kid-proofed the home computer is anyway.
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All that said, creating a middle ground between YouTube Kids and the chaos of normal YouTube is something. Just don’t bank on a perfect moderation system. Even YouTube says so.
Following the 2019 update to Chrome, Google is now bringing Password Checkup to Android to help alert you about potential leaks or data breaches that may have exposed your existing passwords to hackers. Password Checkup will be rolling out to devices with Android 9 and above, and will automatically check passwords already saved in Android along with any new ones. If Google detects that your password has been exposed, you’ll get an alert strongly suggesting you change it.
Password Checkup is important, but let’s get down to the good stuff: Google Maps is finally getting the long-awaited official dark mode. And in Google Messages on Android 7 and above, Google is adding the ability to send scheduled messages, similar to Gmail’s scheduled email feature. All you have to do is write a message as normal, and then hold the send button, which makes a new menu appear allowing you to set an exact time for when your text will go out.
Even the Google Assistant is getting a small upgrade, with the ability to make calls, set timers and alarms, and play music on your phone using voice commands. This means your Android phone can now kind of double as a smart speaker, and helps expand the role of the Google Assistant as something that simply answers questions with these additional automation features.
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Android Auto is also getting a refresh. Google added new car-inspired backgrounds and voice-activated games like Jeopardy to help those long road trips go by a little faster. And to help make things like contacts easier to access, Google is also adding shortcuts to Android Auto, and cars with widescreen displays get a new split-screen mode so you can see Google Maps and your media controls at the same time.
Finally, for folks who are blind or have low vision, Google is also releasing a new version of its Talkback app featuring a redesigned menu, more intuitive gesture recognition, improved reading controls, and more.
Google’s new Android software updates will start rolling out today, with Talkback version 9.1 available now in the Google Play store and the update to Android Auto expected to be available “in the coming days.”
As part of Google’s continued efforts to expand the features of its popular mapping app, today Google announced the ability to pay for both parking and transit fares directly in Google Maps.
With the pandemic making people even warier of touching public surfaces, the ability to pay for parking in Google Maps is not only a bit of added convenience but also a helpful safety precaution. To start, Google will be partnering with two parking solution providers (Passport and Park Mobile) in more than 400 cities across the U.S. including Boston, Cincinnati, L.A., NYC, and Washington D.C.
The way it works is that once you find a parking spot, all you have to do is enter the meter number, set the amount of time you need, and then hit the Pay button. And as an added bonus, if you need to add more time to the meter before you get back, you can extend your time inside Google Maps too.
As for public transit, people will now be able to pay for public transit fares inside Google Maps for more than 80 different transit agencies across the world. By making it possible to plan and pay for a trip in Google Maps, Google is hoping to reduce the hassle of switching between multiple apps and eliminate the confusion of having to find a physical ticket machine. And in certain places like San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll even be able to buy a digital Clipper card, so you can get past the turnstiles just by scanning your phone.
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The one important thing to know is that it seems payments for transit fares will come from a credit card or debit card linked to your Google Pay account, so if you don’t use Google Pay, you’ll likely need to set it up before being able to use Google Map’s new transit payment features.
Google says support for parking payments in Google Maps will begin rolling out on Android today with support for iOS “coming soon.” Meanwhile paying for transit fares in Google Maps will become available on Android sometime “in the coming weeks.”
More than 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so you’d be forgiven for being unable to keep up with everything happening on the world’s largest video-streaming platform. But there are a few tricks to streamline your YouTube experience so you can get in, find the clips you want, and get out.
If you’re not already subscribed to YouTube Premium, it could be worth it. It might not immediately make sense to pay for content you can watch for free, but if you’re a regular YouTube viewer, then the time you save from not having to click past ads can be substantial—and you get bonuses like offline viewing and YouTube Music Premium thrown in, too.
In addition to skipping ads, you can speed up any video by clicking on the cog icon on the clip during playback and choosing Playback speed. You can find the same option in the mobile apps by tapping on a video then tapping on the three dots in the top right corner. Purists won’t like it, but it can really help you get through videos more quickly when you’re just looking for one or two moments in them or trying to get an overview of the content.
For this guide, we’ll focus on the web version of YouTube, but the same options and features are also available in the mobile apps. You should be able to find them without difficulty. Let’s dive in.
Tweak your recommendations
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The recommendations that pop up in the sidebar, on the home page, and elsewhere on YouTube can lead you to some top-quality content relevant to your interests, or take you down a time-wasting rabbit hole that’s tough to escape. Obviously for the sake of time and your sanity, you want the former option, and there are various ways that you can make sure the recommendations you see are the most relevant they can be.
A good start is to click the thumbs up or thumbs down buttons underneath videos, depending on whether you like or dislike the clips—it tells YouTube what you’re into and what you’d rather avoid. Something else you can do is click the three dots just to the side of recommended videos and choose Not interested if you’re… not interested. In some cases there’ll be a Don’t recommend channel option too.
We’d also recommend going to your Google activity overview page, clicking YouTube History and Manage activity, and deleting any views or searches you don’t want to affect your recommendations. You can always use incognito mode if you need to watch some clips that you don’t want to see related videos for in the future (maybe you’re not at all into DIY, but you need to fix a leaky tap).
Manage your subscriptions
Subscribe to too many channels and you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed (and miss the really good stuff). If you click Subscriptions in the navigation bar on the left and then Manage, you can decide if you really need to follow so many channels. Click the Subscribed button to unsubscribe from a channel.
Even if you don’t want to unsubscribe from a channel, you can still limit the notifications you get from it by clicking the bell icon to the right. You can choose from All, Personalized, or None here. Personalized is the default—it uses a mix of signs, like your interactions with the channel and your watch history, to determine how many notifications you’ll be interested in getting.
You can further tweak how many pings and alerts YouTube sends your way by heading to the notifications settings screen. If you don’t want to hear about updates to the channels that you’re subscribed to, or about recommended videos that you might like, or about activity on your own channel, then you can manage these options from here.
Curate your playlists
Playlists on YouTube maybe don’t get the recognition they deserve, but they can be a really useful way of organizing what you want to watch in the future, what you’ve watched already, and what you might come back to one day. To create a new playlist, click the Save button under a video or the three dots next to a clip. You’ll be able to create a brand new playlist as well as manage your existing ones.
Your playlists are all available via the Library button on the navigation pane on the left. Click on a playlist and you can change the order of the videos you’ve saved, remove clips from a playlist, add videos to your current queue, and more. Playlists can be made public as well, should you want to share your findings with other people (or maybe just make a playlist for someone).
And you should definitely use the Watch later playlist that YouTube creates by default. It’s easily accessible from all the screens on all the devices where YouTube is available, and adding videos to it is very straightforward—click the little clock icon on a thumbnail on the YouTube home page. It’s a quick and simple way of putting clips away for later when you don’t want to watch them immediately.
Use a YouTube add-on
YouTube has spawned a whole host of third-party add-ons and plug-ins that you can use to keep track of what you want to watch. Take PocketTube, for example, which lets you sort your subscriptions into specific folders so you can follow them more easily. It works well for splitting up channels by topic or by how interested you are in them.
Unhook is an interesting experiment in removing a lot of the clutter from the YouTube interface and giving you a more streamlined experience.You can hide recommendations, the default video endscreen, user comments, the trending tab, video annotations, and more. If you find that YouTube looks far too busy in its default state, Unhook is worth a try.
Improve YouTube is another add-on that offers a selection of features that you might find useful. Among the tweaks it can apply to the YouTube interface are a customizable video player size option, settings for hiding various parts of the interface, more detailed controls for looping videos and changing the playback speed, tools for managing auto playback, and more.
There are signs the waiting could be over. It seems like Google has finally decided to start updating its major iOS apps. The company released an update for YouTube this weekend, more than two months after its last update.
As explained by 9to5Google, which spotted the update, it’s normal for Google to stop updating apps in December because of holidays. Updates aren’t published during holidays because there might not be as much staff as usual to fix any problems related to them. However, updates usually resume in early January. That didn’t happen this year though, and a vast majority of Google’s iOS apps have not been updated since December, the outlet stated.
Speculation immediately ensued, of course, about a possible reason behind the delay. The popular theory was related to Apple’s new privacy labels, which aim to inform users of which data apps collect and whether that data is linked to them or used to track them. Apple launched the labels in December, and developers are now required to include them to update their apps and submit new apps.
This theory doesn’t pan out for YouTube, which already had labels before Google’s update this weekend. 9to5Google states that YouTube Music, YouTube TV, and YouTube Studio all had their labels at the beginning of February. Yet, none of these apps have received an update in months.
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Google has also come out and said that the delays are not due to Apple’s privacy labels. In January, it started rolling out more labels to its apps, and also published a blog about privacy which mentioned the labels.
“As Google’s iOS apps are updated with new features or to fix bugs, you’ll see updates to our app page listings that include the new App Privacy Details,” wrote Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, vice president of product, privacy. “These labels represent the maximum categories of data that could be collected—meaning if you use every available feature and service in the app.”
Gizmodo has reached out to Google to ask why other major iOS apps haven’t received updates yet and when we should expect them. We’ll update this blog if we hear back.
Does this mean that Google isn’t worried about Apple’s new privacy labels? Oh no. Google’s main business is advertising, and there’s no doubt they’ve had conversations about the labels. However, in this case, it’s probably safe to say that the delay in updates is related to something else. Perhaps even something completely ordinary.
Microsoft would like the U.S. government to adopt media rules that would force big tech companies to share profits with newspapers when they link to news content, according to a new blog post by Microsoft president Brad Smith. And the entire concept is controversial, to say the least.
The profit-sharing idea, which has been proposed in Australia, has not gone over well with companies like Google, which has threatened to block searches down under if the new media rules become finalized and implemented. But Microsoft thinks it’s a great idea that deserves serious consideration in the U.S.
“…we’ve heard from people asking whether Microsoft would support a similar proposal in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries. The short answer is yes,” the introduction to the Microsoft blog post reads.
Specifically, Smith seems to like what’s called “baseball arbitration” to determine the fair price newspaper publishers should get for the content they produce. Under Australia’s proposed media rules, an arbiter would force the major newspapers and tech giants like Google and Facebook to sit down and figure out a fair price for compensating news outlets based on the content they produce.
The theory is that Google and Facebook are getting that content for free and shouldn’t be able to eat the newspaper industry’s lunch by taking all the ad revenue generated by someone else.
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From Smith’s blog post:
Google objects strenuously to what it regards as the injustice of having to engage in baseball arbitration. It argues that this type of arbitration is appropriate only “when the parties are already close in price.” In contrast, according to Google, there is a wide gap between what news organizations are seeking and what Google is prepared to pay. Ignoring the fact that an imbalanced bargaining position has created this disparity in the first place, Google in effect asserts that its own inflexibility at the negotiating table means that it should not have to participate in an arbitration that rewards reasonableness over intransigence.
Microsoft’s Bing search service has less than 5% market share in Australia, substantially smaller than the 15-20% market share that we have across PC and mobile searches in the United States and the 10-15% share we have in Canada and the United Kingdom. But, with a realistic prospect of gaining usage share, we are confident we can build the service Australians want and need. And, unlike Google, if we can grow, we are prepared to sign up for the new law’s obligations, including sharing revenue as proposed with news organizations. The key would be to create a more competitive market, something the government can facilitate. But, as we made clear, we are comfortable running a high-quality search service at lower economic margins than Google and with more economic returns for the press.
Smith makes some very bizarre comments in the post, completely unrelated to Australia’s proposed media laws. For instance, Smith hints that Russia invented disinformation in 2016, which is an absolutely absurd notion.
From Smith’s post, emphasis ours:
On the one hand, the internet and social media have unfortunately become powerful engines of disinformation and misinformation. First pioneered by the Russian government in the 2016 U.S. election, the disinformation disease has now spread much more broadly. Without new and greater restraints, there is a growing risk that more politicians and advocates will exploit the algorithms and business models underlying social media and the internet to turn disinformation into a new political tactic of choice.
Needless to say, Russia didn’t invent disinformation, let alone disinformation online. But strange tangents aside, Microsoft has clearly planted its flag against monopoly power in search, a funny backflip for anyone who remembers Microsoft as the bad guy during 1990s antitrust lawsuits with the U.S. government.
What happens if Google blocks all searches in Australia? The country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there’s always Bing. Morrison has been in discussions with Microsoft on stepping up to the challenge and filling the search void if Google takes its ball and goes home. But Australians are skeptical that it’s so easy.
Google search has roughly 95% market share in Australia, as Smith points out, a larger percentage than even most western countries like the U.S. where Google has just an estimate 62% market share, if you can believe that. But Bing just isn’t seen as reliable as Google. There’s a reason “google” has become a generic term for conducting an internet search and “bing” has not.
Where will the debate go from here? No one knows for sure. But Australia is sticking to its guns, which could create a precedent for other countries. The precedent could be a country completely dependent on Bing, or it could be a precedent where Google caves and is forced to the bargaining table. Either way, it will be interesting to watch, whether or not the Biden administration takes inspiration.
If you regularly use Apple’s Safari browser, you’re probably familiar with its “Fraudulent Website Warning,” which gives you a heads up if the site you’re about to visit might be, say, an elaborate phishing scam. What you probably didn’t know is that until now, this safety feature relied on an obscure Google database to operate. Now, as part of the privacy features soon rolling out in iOS 14, it looks like Apple’s severing those ties entirely.
MacRumors was the first to notice some screenshots of the iOS 14.5 beta being swapped over Reddit that clearly show Apple using its own servers as a middleman between your phone and Google’s databases. As the original poster laid out, it seems that any web traffic on Safari makes a pit stop to a new URL— “proxy.safebrowsing.apple”—before hitting Google’s own service.
In a nutshell, the “Google Safe Browsing” database is essentially a list of sites that are known to be scammy or unsafe in some way that Google constantly updates by crawling the web. Non-Google apps—like, say, Safari—can hook themselves up to Google’s servers and receive either a hashed or non-hashed list of prefixes from these scammy sites. Upon doing so, any clicks instinctively ping Google’s servers to see if the web address being visited match with any of the names on this list. If they do, a warning flag goes up.
The issue here is that Google is, well, Google, and Apple has been making a solid effort to put privacy and data protections at the core of the iOS 14 updates. Pinging Google’s servers in this way–especially if those addresses are hashed—might not expose too much information besides your IP address or other bits of so-called “unidentifiable data,” but at the end of the day, data is still data, and that data is still going to Google.
Earlier this week, the Apple’s engineering head for WebKit confirmed that Apple’s attempt to intercept this traffic is a way to “limit the risk of information leak.” In other words, it’s a way to keep Google’s grubby hands off of any user data, no matter how innocuous the reason may seem.
For people who have been debating about whether to pay Google for extra cloud storage or not, today Google just sweetened the deal by giving new photo-editing tools to Google One subscribers.
In a blog post, Google outlined the new effects that will be added to Google Photos for people with Google One subscriptions, which include porting over features previously only available on Pixel phones. The new effects even include support for pics snapped by older phones that don’t have the same set of depth sensors available on more recent devices, and any existing photos you’ve already taken.
The new editing features include both Portrait Blur and Portrait Lighting to help improve pics you’ve snapped of friends and family, along with Blur and Color Pop effects to help highlight a certain subject or emphasize specific shades and hues. And as usual, you can apply these effects yourself, or let Google Photos come up with its own edits via automatic suggestions.
There’s even support for more advanced editing effects, which Google is calling dynamic suggestions, that use machine learning to adjust a variety of settings including brightness, contrast, and color saturation, all with a single tap. For landscape photographers, Google even made a special sky suggestions filter (example above) that can add some extra drama to your shot by tweaking multiple settings and overlaying a handful of color palettes “inspired by breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.”
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On top of the new effects, Google is also adding a new video editor to Google Photos for all users (even non-paying ones) with more than 30 different settings and controls, including trimming, stabilizing, adding filters, changing perspectives, and more.
However, while it’s tough to be upset about getting new features for free, it’s important to mention the new upgrades to Google Photos for people with Google One subscriptions comes just a few months before Google turns off unlimited storage in Google Photos. Starting in June, anyone with more than 15GB of photos will need to either find somewhere else to store their pics, or pay $2 a month for 100GB of cloud storage with Google One.
On one hand, it was always clear that free unlimited storage in Google Photos was a deal too good to last forever, but at the same time, the switch forces people to make a hard decision about what to do with all the digital media they’ve captured over the years.
When it comes to cloud storage, the free 15GB of storage you get from Google Photos is already three times as much space as you get from Apple iCloud or Microsoft OneDrive, which only offer 5GB of free storage. So if you’re already capped out on storage in Google Photos, switching to one of the other big cloud storage providers probably won’t save you any money.
And if you do decide to opt for extra cloud storage, currently Google One and Microsoft OneDrive charge $2 a month for an extra 100GB of space (or $3 a month for 200GB with Google One), while Apple charges $1 a month for 50GB or $3 a month for 200GB. It’s a bummer that Google Photos is no longer completely free, but Google One is still a pretty good deal compared to the competition.
Google One subscribers on Android will see the new photo-editing features “over the next few days,” and the new video-editing features (which are already available on iOS) will be available on Android sometime in the “coming weeks.”
Features familiar to the Waze crowd are coming soon to Apple Maps.
Available now for developer and public beta users running iOS 14.5, and rolling out to all users later this spring, the new features will allow passengers and drivers to easily report a speed check, accident, or any kind of hazard they encounter while driving. As the feature is meant to be hands-free for those behind the wheel, users can alert Siri to the incident either with a voice command on their iPhone or, if supported, using CarPlay.
To prompt the assistant, just say, “Hey Siri, report…” followed by the event, whether that be an accident, hazard, speech check, speed trap, or just “incident.” Beta users who have the feature will also be able to say things like, “There’s a crash up ahead,” or, “There’s a speed trap here.” Siri will be able to understand commands like “the hazard is gone” or “clear the accident,” as well, and users can also tell Siri things like, “the accident is still here.”
Beyond the reporting features, Apple Maps is getting a few other changes as well. Apple has added Cycling Routes for Portland and San Diego, which will show users routes with bike-friendly streets, bike paths, and designated bike lanes. (These features are currently available for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, too.) The tool allows riders to check for things like elevation and busy areas, and Siri can navigate your bike route on an iPhone, Apple Watch, or with AirPods.
Lastly, the company continues to expand on its Guides in Maps, which offer tips on where to hike, eat, shop, and adventure. Apple says Maps now features more than 500 of these curated Guides, but they’re automatically updated with new ones added every week.