Google+ adds video chat feature hangouts to help deaf users to communicate in sign language

News, September 16 2011

Google Plus-iconGoogle+ is getting more accessible for sign language users to hangouts. Hangouts, the social network’s video chat feature is one thing that sets Google+ apart from Facebook and Twitter.

When many people are chatting in a Hangout, only one person often “gets the floor” at a time and control of the video chat. Google used microphone volume to determine who got to be control of the conversation.  The loudest person got control of the virtual chat.

One problem: without sound input, Google+ didn’t know which feed to prioritize. The feature was almost unusable for deaf people; the person with the most background noise got the floor.

Then Google announced a simple fix last weekend via blog post:

If all video chatters mute their microphone, anyone who wants to say something can hit Shift+S on their keyboard. That person will show up as the biggest video box on the video feed, and can sign away with control of the floor. Previously, whoever was talking the loudest got the floor on group chats.

By Aqeel Qureshi

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