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Pixel phones are now helping hearing impaired people join in the conversation.
Matthew Johnston, who is hearing impaired, phoned his son for the first time at age 55. Live Caption helped make it possible.

Matthew Johnston, 55, has been deaf since he was born. 

So, on a recent drive, when his partner, who was at the wheel, asked him to make a phone call, the request came as a bit of a surprise. 

“A hearing person asking a non-hearing person to make a call,” Johnston says. “It was the first time someone had asked me to, and it showed she trusted the technology.” During the pandemic, when they were unable to meet in person because he was in the UK and she was in Paris, they had used Live Caption to call each other every day. “This would not have been possible without this feature,” he says. Johnston’s experience shows how the need to create a phone for the hard of hearing was long overdue.

Johnston used his Pixel phone to make the call. It has Live Caption, which transcribes spoken language on phone calls to people who are deaf or hearing impaired or hard of hearing and reads aloud their written responses – in real time. It can be used across any app and leverages AI to accurately understand and transcribe speech instantly. And since it lives locally on the phone, it’s much faster than other options that operate in the cloud. This feature means that Google has indeed created phones for the hearing impaired.

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Phones for the hard of hearing have in the past been a difficult nut to crack, but for the more than 350 million people around the world who are hard of hearing, Live Caption now offers a way to participate in phone calls and video meetings. It works with podcasts and audio messages as well. Johnston and others have traditionally relied on a combination of lip-reading, which is difficult on a screen, and transcription and subtitles to participate in video meetings with colleagues. The arrival of phones for the hard of hearing has now made life a lot easier for them.

Matthew Jonhston I’m 55, and for the first time in my life, I was able to call my son. It was wonderful.

These tools made it possible for Johnston to serve as a juror in a trial in the UK in 2019, but they weren’t enough to make two-way calling easy. Pixel Live Caption has increased the speed and ease of two-way interactions.

In 2021, Johnston talked with his son on the phone for the first time in his life using this feature. “I’m 55, and for the first time in my life, I was able to call my son,” he says. “It was wonderful.”

Pixel Live Caption has helped give him, as he puts it, “more independence, self-reliance, and confidence,” including in professional settings. “Although video meeting software provides captions,” he says, “Live Caption is more accurate. I can also read what I’m saying, which helps me to improve my speech.”

It’s been useful in other situations, too, like a telehealth visit with his doctor during the pandemic. In fact, it was so successful that the doctor has also become an advocate of Live Caption, says Johnston. “He was so impressed with the technology that he wrote a letter to his peers to say that he was able to have a conversation with me. Testimony to what Google believes is the best phone for the hard of hearing.” 

Pixel Live Caption is a feature that transcribes spoken language and reads aloud written responses typed in real timeIt enables deaf and hard of hearing people to make phone callsIt leverages AI to accurately and instantly understand and transcribe speech
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