Google hasn’t really been subtle that it’s obsessed with Meet. To be more precise, it’s obsessed with dethroning Zoom that it’s placing Meet everywhere it can possibly can. There were even rumors that Google, in its zeal to promote Meet as the one true communication platform for all users, might be replacing its simpler Duo video chat platform in two years. As if to prove that all is still well in Duo land, Google just announced an earlier rumored feature that almost puts it on equal footing with Meet.
It feels like ages ago but it was only last February that Jane Manchun Wong saw signs of a transcription feature for Google Duo. Sixth months later, Google has made it official and announced that Google Duo now has captions for both voice and video messages.
Despite sharing similar names, it’s important to understand that this new Duo feature is unrelated to Live Captions, which transcribes audio from anything playing on the device, and Live Transcribe, which does the same for spoken words picked up from outside the device. The latter two, as their names imply, do it live while Duo’s captioning system happens only after the fact.
To some extent, it’s more like YouTube’s closed caption as it only transcribes audio after they have been recorded and after it has been sent to Google’s servers. The latter is an important consideration as it does mean that transcription isn’t happening on the device and is sent to Google, with all the privacy implications it might have.
Still, the small update is a crucial one especially these days where most communication happens online and through our smartphones. It doesn’t exactly make it feel more personal but it does take away the stress of having to scramble to look for a quiet place or put earphones on just to make sense of someone’s video or audio message.