Google+ video hangouts adds sign language feature

Google+ now lets you 'take the floor' for video hangouts, allowing those using sign language to be seen more clearly than in a thumbnail.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Google+ has just added a new feature, making it easier for people using sign language to communicate with others using the service.

Its video hangouts feature now has an option called 'take the floor.' Rather than trying to make out what people are signing from a thumbnail, this lets them appear as the main video, so their gestures can be seen more clearly.

It's simple to activate too. Everyone in the hangout has to mute their audio, as otherwise the voice activated feature switches whoever's making the most noise to the main video. (In the case of signers, this would be whoever has the loudest background noise.) If you want to sign something, press Shift and S at the same time. You should appear in the main video, and then you've got the floor. Sign away, and everyone will be able to see exactly what you're saying.

Once you have the floor no one can take it for a few seconds, so there shouldn't be any clashes. You can see it in action in this video.

Along with this new feature, the video quality has also been improved, Chee Chew, director at Google, revealed in a blog post. He said they'd been hard at work "aggressively improving the video quality and stability. It's still a huge challenge to transmit 10 video feeds to 10 end points, potentially all around the world."

He added improvements to quality will be ongoing. "We still have lots of improvements we want to make. But I hope you see a substantial improvement in video stability in the past several weeks. This will be a never-ending effort. Without improved video quality the next thing doesn't matter."

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