Join NCRA   |  Store  |  NCRA Online Sourcebook  |  FAQ  |  Pressroom  |  Contact Us
News & Publications

Google+ Hangout Captions

September 26, 2012

By Laura P. Brewer

Google made an exciting announcement at the National Association of the Deaf annual convention in July, introducing Google+ Hangout Captions. Now it is possible to provide realtime CART in a Hangout, Google’s version of a video call.

Google has gone social in a big way with Google+, and one of the most popular features of Google+ is Hangouts. A Hangout is a video call made in Google+. At this point, up to 10 people can participate in a Hangout, and there are plans to support more participants in the future. With Hangouts and video calls as popular as they are, it is wonderful news that Google introduced Hangout Captions.

Hangout Captions allow for Basic (keyboard) and StreamText (stenography) modes.  StreamText mode allows a professional CART provider to stream CART in the Hangout. The Basic mode allows any Hangout participant to type into the Hangout Captions pane to provide basic note-taking. The Hangout Captions pane can be viewed side by side with the chat window and the video of all the participants. It is also possible to write in the Hangout Captions pane using Basic mode and what Eclipse calls “keyboard macro” realtime output. (I suspect other CAT vendors allow a similar realtime output.)

Participating in a Hangout is easy. If you’ve never participated in one before, just follow the directions on the Google + pages.

When you’re ready, add the Google+ Hangout Captions app. Participants, including the CART provider, will need to install the Hangout Captions App the first time they want to use Hangout Captions. After that, all that the Hangout participants need to do is click the “Hangout Captions” button at the top of the screen to open the Hangout Captions pane and follow the captions. You can get set up by following Google’s instructions on “Using Hangout Captions” through the Hangout Captions app page.

Providing CART Using Google+ Hangout Captions

The CART streaming in StreamText (Stenography) mode for Hangout Captions is accomplished, not surprisingly, via StreamText, so the CART provider needs to be able to log into an account with StreamText. The StreamText fee for the Hangout Captions is nine cents per minute, billed to the account used to initiate the Hangout Captions. The CART provider needs to start the StreamText connector before starting his or her realtime file, just as with any other assignment using StreamText. After that, the event is automatically set up within the Hangout.
Once your StreamText connector is started and connected and you have started your realtime file, follow these instructions, selecting “StreamText (Stenography)” from the drop-down menu:

Google + Hangout Illustration 1

Keep in mind that the CART provider is one of the ten participants. You will use the Hangout as your audio source, and you will be able to see the speakers.

A few tips

-To streamline the process of receiving the Hangout Invitation, log in to Google+, go to plus.google.com, and open chat. The invitation will be easily visible in chat, and you can click on the invitation link to join the Hangout.

-To stop the StreamText per-minute charges immediately after you have stopped providing Hangout Captions, go to the StreamText website and stop the event. (The StreamText event should stop automatically after five minutes with no writing input, but all minutes are billed until the event stops.)

-You can mute your microphone by clicking the “microphone on” icon button at the top of the screen. Beware that as a participant, if you do not mute your microphone, other environmental noises in your office (phones, barking dogs, leaf blowers, oaths muttered under your breath) will be broadcast into the Hangout.

-You can black out your video by clicking the “video on” icon at the top right of the screen. I also use the low-tech solution of placing a Post-It over my laptop camera lens.

Summary

Hangout Captions are a powerful advanced communication tool that promise exciting possibilities for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities as well as for CART providers. Hangouts, like Apple’s FaceTime, are a great way to communicate – and they are addictive. So go have some fun hanging out, and enjoy the advantages of living in this amazing age of technological advancement.

Laura P. Brewer, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a captioner located in Los Altos, Calif.