Google on Thursday announced a new Android accessibility feature called Sound Notifications. In a blog post co-written by artificial intelligence product manager Sagar Savla and accessibility product manager Sharlene Yuan, the company said Sound Notifications is designed to alert users with hearing loss when various sounds occur, such as when a kitchen appliance beeps or water runs. Google cited a World Health Organization statistic that some 466 million people worldwide, 34 million of which are children, have “disabling hearing loss.”
Sound Notifications are meant to “make important and critical household sounds more accessible with push notifications, a flash from your camera light, or vibrations” on Android and Wear OS devices, according to Google. They also note the feature has relevance beyond hearing loss; it can be beneficial to those who are temporarily disabled due to injury, or even simply wearing earplugs or headphones.
Google says Sound Notifications was developed using machine learning and works completely offline. It uses the microphone to detect ten different sounds—these include baby cries and door knocks. Furthermore, the company emphasized how their work in Sound Notifications is an expansion of their prior work with Live Transcribe. Live Transcribe is another facet of Google’s sound awareness tech which, true to its name, provides users with real-time captioning of over thirty sound events. Google has updated Live Transcribe with a Timeline view that allows users to “scroll through a brief snapshot of detected sounds from the past few hours.” This new capability helps users by giving them better context of a sound’s importance.
Google posted a YouTube video explaining Sound Notifications and Live Transcribe.
The introduction of Sound Notifications comes a few months after Apple debuted a similar feature, named Sound Detection, in iOS 14. Apple’s version knows more sounds—a dozen compared to Sound Notification’s ten—but does not have the timeline feature of Live Transcribe. Apple users also can use their iPhone’s LED flash to get notified when the phone rings, a text message comes in, and more.