Woman in bedroom Skyping friend

Live captions and subtitles are coming to Skype and PowerPoint

Skype and PowerPoint will now feature live captions and subtitles, Microsoft has announced.

The features, which will help the deaf and hard of hearing community by giving them the ability to read what is being spoken in real-time, have been launched to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Skype users can turn these on for a single call or choose to see them on every call they are part of, whether it’s a one-on-one or group chat.

The live captions and subtitles are designed to be fast, continuous and contextually updated as people speak. As well as auto-scrolling during a call, people can choose to have them appear in a side window, so they can be re-read at any time.

Skype also said it would support translations in more than 20 languages and dialects.

“Whether you’re learning a new language, having a tough time understanding your friend from across the world, or attending a meeting that is not in your native tongue, our new translations will help keep you up to speed,” a spokesperson wrote in a blog post. “Once you turn translations on through a simple setting toggle, you can read subtitles in the language of your choosing in every call.”

PowerPoint users will also be able to display captions and subtitles in the same language or in a different one. At launch, the Office program will support 12 spoken languages and display on-screen captions or subtitles in one of more than 60 languages.

Microsoft’s speech recognition technology will automatically adapt based on the presented content for a more accurate understanding of names and specialised terminology, while presenters will be able to customize the size, position, and appearance of subtitles.

PowerPoint’s live captions and subtitles will begin rolling out in late-January for users on Windows 10, Mac and Online.

They join other accessible features in Office 365, including automatic suggestions for alt-text in Word and PowerPoint, expanded availability of automatic closed captions and searchable transcripts for videos in Microsoft Stream and enhancements to the Office 365 Accessibility Checker.