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March 5, 2010

YouTube auto-captions: a work in progress

Posted: 03:27 PM ET

I logged on to YouTube today, eager to test the automatic-captioning feature made available to all users Thursday.

I plugged in my headphones, clicked on the first video I saw - a clip from the Food Network show, “Semi-Homemade Cooking” - and turned on captioning by clicking the "cc" icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Before the captions appeared, a message popped up that read, “Please note: Transcribed Audio is an experimental service that uses Google’s speech recognition technologies to provide automated captions for video.”

Experimental - they weren’t kidding.

“I’m just going to take this and kind of free form it,” host Sandra Lee said as she prodded a loaf of raw meat. However, the caption read, “I’m just going to take that a tax break for it.”

Other mangled captions have appeared on Twitter and on the new Web meme,

In a post on the Official YouTube Blog, a spokesperson acknowledges “auto-captions aren’t perfect,” but asks user to be patient. “Our speech recognition technology gets better every day.”

Here's how it works:

“Auto-captioning combines some of the speech-to-text algorithms found in Google's Voice Search to automatically generate video captions when requested by a viewer … Just like any speech recognition application, auto-captions require a clearly spoken audio track,” the blog states. “Videos with background noise or a muffled voice can't be auto-captioned.” 

A YouTube spokesperson told CNN, “Although auto-captions are imperfect, they’re better than nothing and they will help the deaf community to better understand this wide world of video they previously hadn’t been able to connect with.”

At the moment, auto-captioning only applies to videos in English. In the coming months, YouTube plans to release auto-captioning for many other languages.

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Filed under: Google • YouTube

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Avrailer   March 5th, 2010 4:10 pm ET

ROFL!!! So Youtube tried to make closed captioning? and failed!!! Just stick with being the most used site for video content...

Dilbert   March 6th, 2010 12:11 pm ET

@Avrailer – What's wrong with you? I don't think you have any clue what is being attempted here. They aren't implementing CC by having people sit down and type in the text, they are attempting to use software to interpret the audio and translate that to text. This is a VERY difficult problem! Like you could do any better!

Vic   March 7th, 2010 2:01 pm ET


Some of us have a legitimate need for captions. Your statement just goes to show your ignorance and lack of appreciation for the advancement of all people. In case you didn't know, the Chief Internet Evangelist of Google is hard of hearing himself and makes use of captions. This project is being driven by a deaf man himself and is the product of many years of research.

Some of us are actually thankful for the service no matter how nominal the effect is, it will get better. Practice makes perfect.

Mad Doc   March 8th, 2010 9:52 am ET

At least they are trying to make it work, Dude! I would support it as effective they are. Been using the Youtube for ages and we all suffer from the mouth movement but don't understand what they are saying. As havens above says, "Let there be Light" I say, "Let there be Captions".

Derik   March 8th, 2010 2:10 pm ET

The auto-captioning is a bit dodgy... but it's MUCH easier to let youTube generate and time the captions then fix them manually than it was to write caption files by hand.
I've done it both ways. This is about 5x quicker.

Hayden Suhoski   April 26th, 2010 11:33 pm ET

I love watching videos online specially on Youtube. There are lots of music clips, movie clips and instructional videos on Youtube. I love em all.

Phoebe Clarke   April 29th, 2010 3:01 pm ET

i use Youtube to watch Taylor Swift videos. I always watch movie clips on Youtube. What an awesome site. ~-

Claire Richardson   May 19th, 2010 1:27 am ET

we have an Automotive shop at home because my dad and i loves automobiles. .::

Charlotte Wright   August 29th, 2010 8:48 pm ET

me and my brothers do have lots of passion about automotive stuffs"."

Reuben Powell   October 7th, 2010 6:04 am ET

the thing i like about the subject of automotive are those fast and huge cars,.':

Carpet Extractor   December 4th, 2010 3:21 am ET

i have a passion on anything that is automotive related. i love to attend car shows too :.~

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Dejan   February 23rd, 2016 8:27 am ET

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