Microsoft Wants to Empower the Deaf By Adding Live Titles and Captions to PowerPoint

One of your go-to presentation programs is getting a tune-up.

Microsoft announced that it will add real-time captions and subtitles to PowerPoint early next year to break down communication barriers and help presenters interact effectively with their audiences.

The AI-powered feature was conceived in honor of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an annual day of observance, on December 3, that raises awareness on issues faced by people with disabilities around the world.

“Live captions & subtitles in PowerPoint supports the deaf and hard of hearing community by giving them the ability to read what is being spoken in real-time,” Microsoft said of the feature in a blog post.  “In addition, captions and subtitles can be displayed in the same language or in a different one, allowing non-native speakers to get a translation of a presentation.”

The captions are based on Microsoft’s ongoing AI work, and, according to The Verge, the company has used similar software for its own presentations. “Presenters will be able to customize the appearance of subtitles to match a presentation, and the speech recognition should adapt for more accurate terminology based on context.”

Microsoft is planning to bring these features to the Office 365 version of PowerPoint in late January 2019 across Windows, PowerPoint for Mac, and online versions of PowerPoint. The new tool will support 12 spoken languages and display on-screen in more than 60 different languages.

PowerPoint’s new perk could bode well for Microsoft’s reputation as a recent Harris Poll survey on consumer perceptions of companies shows Microsoft faring better than its tech peers, Apple and Google, on certain aspects of financial performance. In the Harris Poll’s 2018 Reputation Quotient study, consumers ranked Microsoft (60%) higher than Apple (55%) and Google (53%) when asked which company had strong prospects for future growth.