Over the years, Google has worked hard to add accessibility features to Android, both to make Android itself more accessible and to use Android’s smarts to make the world more accessible. The latest Android accessibility feature, Sound Notifications, can alert those with hearing loss to any important noises nearby.

Today, Android’s Live Transcribe app, which offers text transcriptions of nearby conversations and even alerts when your name is spoken, is being updated to include a similarly useful accessibility feature. As announced on the Google Blog, Sound Notifications send an alert to your phone when it hears certain noises such as a dog barking or a siren.

To help ensure Sound Notifications can work to the fullest extent, it’s advised that you leave your phone in the center of a room, where it can hear well without being muffled. To compensate for having to leave your phone behind, Sound Notifications can strobe your phone’s flashlight for an alert and/or send a notification to your Wear OS smartwatch.

More specifically, Sound Notifications listens for “emergency” sounds like a smoke/fire alarm, “priority” sounds like a baby crying or dog barking, and more mundane every day sounds like a microwave timer beeping or a knock at the door. All of Sound Notifications detected sounds are powered by machine learning, and therefore work entirely offline.

If this all sounds familiar, Google’s true wireless Pixel Buds have experimental “attention alerts” which lower volume and play a chime when one of the support sounds is heard. By that same token, Sound Notifications is not solely an “accessibility feature” in the way people may think. It can also be a great way to still be aware of your surroundings when wearing headphones, especially noise-canceling ones.

To get started with Sound Notifications, make sure you have the Live Transcribe app installed and updated to version 4.0. Then open the Settings app, and in the Accessibility section, you should be able to find Sound Notifications, which will walk you through the basics of how the feature works and even give a demo of a notification.

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Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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