Google’s Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

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.

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

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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.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.
Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

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.

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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.

Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Illustration for article titled Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Image: Google

While we wait for Android 12 to officially go live later this year, Google has a bunch of tweaks and updates coming to Android this spring.

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.

Gif: Google

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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.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.
Image: Google

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.

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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.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.
Image: Google

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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.”

The First Android 12 Developer Beta Is Here

Illustration for article titled The First Android 12 Developer Beta Is Here

Image: Google

Google just announced the release of the first developer preview build of Android 12, giving us a few hints at what changes to expect when the software upgrade rolls out widely.

While this initial build is far from final and new features will surely be added throughout the spring and summer, this first Android 12 developer preview already hints at the features that will roll out officially later this year, including improved media transcoding, faster notifications, enhanced app testing, and a general emphasis on security and privacy.

In order to help support higher-quality media, Google is adding a media transcoding feature to Android 12 that allows developers to more easily convert videos to HEVC. To improve general image quality, Android 12 is also getting support for the AV1 Image File Format (AVIF), which offers better quality and smaller file sizes thanks to improved compression. And to help make sharing content even easier, Google is adding a new API that makes it so apps can receive rich content from your clipboard, keyboard, and more.

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Support for AVIF should help improve image quality compared to standard JPEGs.

Support for AVIF should help improve image quality compared to standard JPEGs.
Image: Google

Google is testing out a revamped design for notifications that it expects to be more functional. This includes a new layout for the notification shade and faster animations across the board. On top of that, Google wants to make launching into apps from the notifications shade even faster, so in Android 12, instead of relying on “trampolines” to launch an app, Google is recommending developers use Activity triggers to launch into apps directly.

Here’s what the new compatibility toggle menu will look like in Android 12.

Here’s what the new compatibility toggle menu will look like in Android 12.
Image: Google

In terms of app compatibility and stability, Google is expanding support for Project Mainline, providing more tools to help developers optimize their apps for tablets, foldables, and Android TV, and even creating a new toggleable settings menu for a number of debugging options.

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Finally, to help support user privacy, Google is adding new controls for identifiers used for tracking, improved cookie behavior in WebView, better protection against apps exporting your activity, and more.

For a full rundown, you can check out the Google’s Android 12 developer site here.

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Also, while this preview build isn’t intended for the average home user to test out, developers and other power users can flash the Android 12 Preview today onto a recent Pixel phones (from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5) or test Android 12 using the Android Emulator in Android Studio.

Get This Asus 2-In-1 Chromebook for $329 and Get the Best of Both Worlds

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14″ Asus 2-In-1 Chromebook | $329 | Best Buy

It’s my laptop! It’s my tablet! It’s my laptop and my tablet! Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more hybrid laptops that can fold up into a a freestanding tablet. The idea here is to offer the best of both worlds with a keyboard for computing and a touch screen for just casual chillin’. It’s a neat premise for those who want a computer device, but don’t need power. If that’s you, check out this Asus 2-in-1 Chromebook. It features a 14″ full HD touchscreen that can be flipped around 360 degrees. With 4GB of system memory and 64GB of flash memory, this isn’t a device you can get really complicated with, but it’s all you’ll need for some basic multitasking.


Chrome Beta Lets iOS Users Lock Incognito Tabs With Face and Touch ID

Illustration for article titled Chrome Beta Lets iOS Users Lock Incognito Tabs With Face and Touch ID

Photo: Kimihiro Hoshino (Getty Images)

Google appears to be testing a tool to make Incognito browsing even more private in Chrome for iOS.

The beta version of the iOS Chrome app introduced a feature to require Touch ID or Face ID to unlock Incognito tabs that you might not want others accessing. With the feature enabled, returning to Chrome after a closed session will show a blurred Incognito tab and will require verification to be accessed, per release notes screenshotted by 9to5Google. Google stated in the notes that the feature is intended to “add more security to your Incognito tabs.”

To enable the feature, head to Settings, navigate to Privacy, and select Lock Incognito tabs when you close Chrome. According to 9to5Google, the feature isn’t available for everyone running the beta version of the Chrome app on iOS. Google didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the feature and its wider rollout.

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As 9to5Google noted, a version of this privacy setting is already available in the primary Google search app, though that privacy setting is triggered after you’ve left the session for 15 minutes. To enable it, open the main Google app, head to Settings, select Privacy and Security, and toggle on the option to Enable Face ID for incognito mode.

Chrome Removed The Great Suspender Extension, But Don’t Mourn Your Lost Tabs Just Yet

Illustration for article titled Chrome Removed The Great Suspender Extension, But Dont Mourn Your Lost Tabs Just Yet

Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

Google has reportedly blocked the popular extension The Great Suspender and removed it from its Chrome Web Store for containing malware. But if you were one of the many users who relied on the tab manager to keep your browser running smoothly, don’t freak out just yet. You may still be able to recover your lost tabs thanks to a workaround uncovered by the extension’s community.

On Thursday, users began receiving notifications that The Great Suspender was “disabled because it contains malware.” The extension, which was installed more than 2 million times before it was disabled, would force any tabs you weren’t currently using to sleep, replacing them with a gray screen until you returned and relaunched them with a click. That way, you could still keep a zillion tabs open without Google’s browser hogging up your device’s memory and potentially slowing down performance.

But, I hear some of you ask, couldn’t you just have fewer tabs open in general and that’d solve the problem too? And to that, my four dozen tabs of articles that I’ll probably never read and I ask that you please keep that logic to yourself, thank you very much.

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Last year, The Great Suspender came under new management, and that seems to be where the problems started. Its creator, Dean Oemcke, sold the extension to an unknown third party in June, and subsequent version updates included an exploit that could be used to quietly run just about any type of code on users’ devices without their consent, per the Register. Microsoft Edge already kicked The Great Suspender from its extension marketplace following the discovery of this exploit, and now it appears Google has followed suit.

If you used the extension and are looking to recover your tabs now that it’s been disabled, you’re in luck. The extension’s community found a promising albeit annoying workaround to revive your lost tabs. Simply head to your browser history—either navigate to chrome://history or press Ctrl-H while in the browser—and search for the extension’s ID: “klbibkeccnjlkjkiokjodocebajanakg”.

That will bring up all your suspended tabs, and at the very end of each result’s absurdly long URL is the actual address of the tab you had open. If you delete all the gibberish before that, you should be left with the URL of the page you were on. So if the URL starts with “https://”, deleting everything before that should give you the URL for your suspended tab.

It’s tedious, sure, but better than simply saying “RIP” to every tab you had up before the extension was disabled. Google and The Great Suspender’s developers did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

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Android TV Is Getting a Big Update With a New Discovery Page

Illustration for article titled Android TV Is Getting a Big Update With a New Discovery Page

Image: Android TV

The Android TV experience is getting an upgrade.

Google today announced that it’s bringing better discovery features to Android TV with three new tabs: Home, Discover, and Apps. Situated at the top of the screen, these new tabs will help users quickly navigate to a page with all of their applications and services, see what’s new, and explore content in a dedicated discovery hub.

Key among these new tabs is the Discover page. One of the best things about the layout of Android TV is that it already allows you to see relevant titles and content from each of your individual apps from your home screen. That’s not changing. But with Discover, Google says it will bring Android TV users more personalized content suggestions that pull from what you watch as well as from trends on Google. Think of it as a more organized suggestion tool, or a single place to browse for something to watch.

The update began rolling out this week to Android TV OS devices this week in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the U.S. More countries will get the update in the weeks ahead, the company said. I didn’t immediately see the update available on either of my Android TV devices, so keep an eye out in the coming days if you don’t either.

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It’s not a perfect copy of Chromecast with Google TV’s excellent interface—that one includes tabs for things like movies, shows, and live TV. But this latest update should make finding something to watch a little easier, particularly for those of us who subscribe to more services than we can count.

Devialet’s Got Some New, Expensive Speakers That Promise to Be Way Better Than Its Old, Expensive Speakers

Two of these bad boys are at a minimum $4,400.

Two of these bad boys are at a minimum $4,400.
Image: Devialet

The first time I heard audio through a Devialet Phantom speaker, I thought the sound waves were going to melt my eyeballs out of their sockets. And then I heard the speaker’s $2,000 price tag, and instead they melted out of my ears. Devialet is announcing an updated version of the Phantom—the Phantom I—with some new guts, updated colorways, power levels, and a few new accessories—oh, and it costs more.

In terms of design, Devialet hasn’t deviated from the Phantom’s signature oblong shape or overall look. Inside, the main difference is the Phantom I features a brand new, next-generation system-on-a-chip. Supposedly, its smaller size means the Phantom I will have better power efficiency, lower distortion, and “increased thermal dissipation for enhanced energy consumption.” TL;DR—Devialet says the new SoC should translate to better acoustics and be up to four times more energy efficient than previous versions.

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The Phantom I will also feature two power levels, 103dB and 108dB. That’s a small increase from the original Phantom, which came in 98dB and 108dB versions. The 103dB Phantom I features a bass-to-treble bandwidth of 16Hz to 25kHZ, and has the option of light chrome or matte black side panels. The 108dB Phantom I has a slightly larger bandwidth range of 14Hz to 27kHz, and dark chrome and 22-karat gold side panels. Both come in either matte black or a glossier white. The new Phantom I speakers will also have a “more intuitive interface” that includes LED signals at the rear and a new standby mode.

These are neat hardware upgrades, but this time around it also seems like Devialet is adding more in the way of connectivity. On top of a new Devialet OS, the new speaker also supports AirPlay 2 and better universal plug-and-play of up to 24 bits. Also on deck is a newly designed physical remote, and a new Arch hub accessory to enable analog connectivity.

Illustration for article titled Devialets Got Some New, Expensive Speakers That Promise to Be Way Better Than Its Old, Expensive Speakers

Image: Devialet

But, you ask, how much? Well, the 103dB version will retail at $2,200 and the 108db version will be $3,200. To be fair, that’s not the absolute worst we’ve ever heard of for high-end speakers aimed at audiophiles. There are, for example, hideous Bugatti speakers so expensive they don’t even list the price. Still, it is pretty expensive for the average person, when you consider popular alternatives from Sonos and Apple’s original HomePod retail for less than $500. We can’t say whether the Phantom I will be worth it until we can get our hands on one in person. (That said, I’ve never met a Devialet owner who didn’t rant and rave about how great the Phantom is.) But for that price I, for one, would hope to be blown to smithereens, my eyes weeping from the auditory beauty.

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The Chromebook Spin 514 Is Acer’s First AMD Ryzen Chromebook

Illustration for article titled The Chromebook Spin 514 Is Acers First AMD Ryzen Chromebook

Image: Acer

As Chromebooks continue to mature, device makers have also started to incorporate a wider variety of components. This year, Acer is announcing its first AMD Ryzen-based offering in the Chromebook Spin 514.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 comes with an AMD Ryzen 3000 C-Series processor with Radeon graphics. AMD announced back in September 2020 that it was releasing better processors for Chromebooks, and that’s the Ryzen 3000 C-Series. Until now, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about what Chromebooks would get that processor upgrade, but it’s not surprising that Acer would come out with one. Was only a matter of time!

Starting at just $480, Acer’s Chromebook Spin 514 is poised to be one of the better performing and more durable Chromebooks in its segment. That’s because it’s equipped with up to an AMD Ryzen 7 3700C CPU, which is a 4-core/8-thread processor with a 2.3 GHz base clock (4.0 GHz boost), 6 MB cache, 10 Radeon Cores at 1400 MHz, and 15W TDP. It’s a massive step up from the A6 and A4 processors AMD introduced for Chromebooks at CES 2019.

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There’s also 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and Acer says the Chromebook Spin 514 has “military-grade” durability thanks to its sandblasted aluminum chassis (available in silver, gray, and green), which has been tested to resist drops of up to four feet.

Acer has also included a 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen with Gorilla Glass in front, along with handy features including a backlit keyboard and somewhat low-res but still serviceable HD webcam. However, while Acer says it has slimmed the Chromebook Spin 514’s bezels down to 6.1mm, its overall screen-to-body ratio of 78% doesn’t strike me as all that impressive.

In addition to the standard model, the Chromebook Spin 514 will also be available in a higher-specced and more expensive enterprise model.

In addition to the standard model, the Chromebook Spin 514 will also be available in a higher-specced and more expensive enterprise model.
Image: Acer

The Chromebook Spin 514 comes with a decent selection of ports, including two USB 3.2 Type-C ports (both of which support video out and charging), a microSD card reader, and even an optional HDMI port on select models. You also get support for Bluetooth 5, dual stereo speakers, and dual mics for better handling video calls. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of other new laptops to debut at CES 2021, the Chromebook Spin 514 will have to make do with 802.11 ac wi-fi instead of support for Wi-Fi 6.

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Finally, thanks to a tighter partnership with Google, along with standard Chrome OS stuff like support for running Android apps, the Chromebook Spin 514 is also Google Assistant Lab certified, so Google’s integrated AI helper should be able to better understand your questions and commands.

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The standard Chromebook Spin 514 is slated to go on sale in North America in February starting at $480, with the higher-specced Chromebook Enterprise Spin 514 expected to become available later in March for $780.

And if you want to see more new gadgets and devices from CES 2021, click here to read our complete coverage.

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Samsung’s $550 Galaxy Chromebook 2 Rocks a Gorgeous Paint Job and QLED Display

Illustration for article titled Samsungs $550 Galaxy Chromebook 2 Rocks a Gorgeous Paint Job and QLED Display

Image: Samsung

Last year’s Galaxy Chromebook was one of the slickest laptops announced at CES, and now for CES 2021, Samsung is returning with the Galaxy Chromebook 2 which sports a more affordable price tag and the first QLED display available on any Chrome OS device.

Starting at just $550, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has retained many of the original $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook’s best qualities while coming in at almost half the price. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 still has a 360-degree 2-in-1 design with a premium aluminum chassis, a backlit keyboard, an included stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and even the same eye-catching red (or gray) paint job.

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However, instead of the OLED display Samsung used on the previous model, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 comes with a 1920 x 1080 13.3-inch QLED touchscreen, which borrows the quantum dot tech used in many of Samsung’s TVs to hopefully produce rich, vibrant colors. And to enhance the laptop’s entertainment and movie watching credentials even further, Samsung has included what it’s calling Smart AMP sound, which Samsung claims is 178% louder than an average laptop amplifier.

On the inside, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 comes in two configurations starting with an Intel Celeron 5205 U CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, with the option to upgrade to an Intel Core i3-10110U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. And to round out the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s specs, you also get support for Wi-Fi 6 along with two USB-C ports (both of which can be used for charging), a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

So even though the more expensive and fancier original Galaxy Chromebook isn’t going away, for those looking to put less stress on their budget, between its very similar design, its new QLED display, and its included stylus support, the new Galaxy Chromebook 2 seems like a much better value.

The new Galaxy Chromebook is slated to be available sometime in Q1 2021.

And if you want to see more new gadgets and devices from CES 2021, click here to read our complete coverage. 

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