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November 20, 2009

Auto-captions come to YouTube

Posted: 02:09 PM ET

Some of YouTube's videos started featuring machine-generated captions this week. That's a potentially huge change for the deaf and hearing impaired, who still don't have access to the vast majority of online video.

Writing on the Official Google Blog (don't forget, Google owns YouTube), software engineer Ken Harrenstien says voice-to-text technology - while clunky at times - must be used to caption the world's videos. The problem is too large for people to handle alone, writes Harrenstein, who is deaf:

Every minute, 20 hours of video are uploaded. How can we expect every video owner to spend the time and effort necessary to add captions to their videos? Even with all of the captioning support already available on YouTube, the majority of user-generated video content online is still inaccessible to people like me.

The YouTube auto-captions use the same speech-to-tech technology as Google Voice.

Check out a video demo here.

Harrenstien says this week's announcement of auto-captions makes him "more hopeful than ever" that Google can achieve its goal of "making videos universally accessible."

NYTimes notes that the captions also stand to make YouTube money:

The technology will also open YouTube videos to a wider foreign market and make them more searchable, which will make it easier for Google to profit from them.

For now, the captions apply only to a handful of YouTube channels, but it will be interesting to watch where this technology goes. The BBC says that, even in Google's demo, the caption technology is not perfect. The phrase "sim card," for instance, was mistaken for "salmon" when it was captioned.

Will this technology help you, or someone you know? Or are you frustrated by machine translations of speech into captioning? Let us know in the comments section.

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Filed under: captioning • Google


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Michele   November 21st, 2009 8:59 am ET

Right on! Been waiting a long time for this. I hope it spreads fast because there are many people like me missing out on a lot. How exciting!


Fred Poyntington   November 28th, 2009 11:38 am ET

speech-to-tech? I think you meant speech-to-text. Or was your blog transcribed by this "new" technology 🙂


glenn   November 29th, 2009 1:07 pm ET

This great ! the deaf community will raise hands in applause. It may not be perfect but it's better than nothing and will improve over time.


Gil in NC   November 29th, 2009 10:25 pm ET

Yes..this move will be a big boost for Google and YouTube to expose themselves to population of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. I would like to see voice to text automation not only on videos, but voice messages to other audio sounds (i.e. Radios..movies...)


Barry   December 1st, 2009 8:37 am ET

Bad captioning is an annoyance for the HOH and Deaf. Bad captioning perhaps can be pictogram to the hearing world on the HOH plight. You have to decipher everything that is displayed on screen that is out of sync with the video presentation. It is just another confusing depiction of the ongoing struggle for those who struggle in the audio dimness. I like to see the hearing world watch a CC without the sound, experience the stress of the struggle of comprehension on following the story or article. Then perhaps take out the vowels and consonants of the wording so they can get a better picture of the inconvenience audio people’s world of communication. Until they comprehend the 24/7 survival of a audio prejudice perhaps they will understand disadvantage of discrimination, bad or high costs of communication tools so they can join and be part of the hearing world and perhaps understand why they have the highest suicide ratings, especially for those who acquired hearing loss later in life. The experience can be compared to living in a foreign country where and you don’t understand the language with a head cold from hell. Captioning will lessen the headache for sure but it has a long way to go.


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