Windows 11 has a cool accessibility feature, namely live captions, that you may well be aware of – but what you might not realize is that it can help not just with videos in your browser, but for providing captions on PC games that lack subtitles (and more besides).
Live captions were brought in with Windows 22H2, but Microsoft is busy building out the functionality, improving it in recent preview builds, and the fact that it works on PC games was pointed out by a Redditor (as flagged by Jen Gentleman, a software engineer and Senior Program Manager at Microsoft).
Tip if you're on Windows 11 22H2 - Windows now has a live captions feature 😊 pic.twitter.com/eQG90diFkCApril 17, 2023
As the Reddit post notes, Microsoft’s live captions feature has some caveats with PC games, but overall it works pretty well, having been given a test run in an Assassin’s Creed title.
So, those caveats are notably that the game must be run in a window (live captions don’t work with full-screen), and there’s a slight delay with the captions popping up – remember Windows 11 is doing this transcription on-the-fly, so that’s to be expected.
The system also needs to be able to hear the speech clearly, meaning if the audio is muffled or otherwise impaired, mistakes can be made. If there’s overlapping with other speech, background noise or the likes of a sound track playing, you’ll encounter problems (so turn off in-game music for example, and perhaps turn down sound effects, plus jack up the speech volume if that’s an available audio option).
Analysis: Further support is in the works
While the feature has its limitations, then, it’s still a great additional capability for gamers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Do also note that another restriction is that language support is US English-only at the moment, but Microsoft is busy working on changing that.
Indeed, in a Windows 11 preview build last month, Microsoft expanded the languages covered to include other English dialects and also the following: Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish. This will be inbound to release versions of Windows 11 soon enough, hopefully.
As well as in your browser and with games, you can also use live captions across a lot of other apps. For example, it can be turned on with Spotify to provide lyrics (for songs that don’t already have them), or captions can be used with videoconferencing apps (if they don’t have a built-in facility already, that could be extremely useful).
To turn on live captions in Windows 11, just hit ‘Windows + Ctrl + L’ and away you go. Or you can find the toggle for the feature under Settings > Accessibility > Captions.
Now all we need to make live captions more broadly accessible is for it to be introduced to Windows 10. Of course, not everyone can upgrade to Windows 11, what with the hardware requirements ruling out older CPUs and PCs lacking TPM functionality. So let‘s not leave those users out in the cold...