Latest Xbox update adds two major audio accessibility options to party chat

Some convenient additions for players with certain auditory or vocal impairments.

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Microsoft has released the June software update for Xbox Series X/S consoles. The update this month most notably contains new accessibility options including speech-to-text and text-to-speech.

Now when gamers navigate to the “Ease of Access” settings menu, a “Game and chat transcription” section provides the options to enable speech-to-text, text-to-speech, or both.

Speech-to-text will convert all words spoken by members in a party chat into text and overlay it on the game being played, for gamers who might be hard of hearing. Meanwhile, gamers with speech impediments can use text-to-speech to type into a party text chat and have their words read aloud to group members by a synthetic voice.

The new options can only be enabled during group party chats.

Inclusivity — Such accessibility features have become more common as tech companies try and make their products inclusive to the most people possible. Google, for instance, recently started testing a new transcription feature in Chrome that automatically creates closed captions on videos that don’t already provide them. Twitter lets users add descriptions to images they upload so that they can be interpreted by screen readers.

Many websites and other tech products are not designed with accessibility in mind because the development teams behind them might not include any members with impairments of their own. Fortunately, the situation has been changing thanks to a growing awareness to make new products work for everyone.

“At Team Xbox, we believe gaming should be inclusive, approachable, and accessible to everyone,” Microsoft says in a blog post. “That includes making it easy for gamers to play and communicate together. Party chat, used by gamers around the world to talk to their friends while playing, now supports converting speech into text and text into speech. Each of these features can be used to help gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or cannot or choose not to speak.”

Some other updates were announced, including a change to the Xbox app on Android and iOS that turns it into more of a full-fledged social network. Gamers can share clips and screenshots in a feed, and now publishers themselves will be able to share posts to players of their games.