YouTube Unveils Automatic Captioning for All Videos
Google has announced automatic captioning for all videos on its enormously popular video site, YouTube, in an effort to make the site more accessible to people with disabilities and foreign language speakers.
"Making some of these videos more accessible to people who have hearing disabilities or who speak different languages, not only represents a significant advancement in the democratization of information, it can also help foster greater collaboration and understanding," said Hiroto Tokusei, YouTube Product Manager, on the official YouTube company blog.
YouTube has had the ability to add captions to videos for years, but it required individual account owners to transcribe the speech in their own videos. This new feature allows YouTube to detect speech in videos and transcribe it automatically.
All this is made possible through Google Voice, a technology that has been transcribing voice mail messages for cell phone users since early last year. Google Voice can detect speech and turn it into text with a high degree of accuracy.
Of course, it's not perfect, and the varying quality of audio in YouTube videos is bound to complicate things. Fortunately, YouTube allows account owners to go in and edit the transcripts of the automatic captions. It still takes some effort on the part of the account holder, but it's much faster than transcribing the entire video.
The entire service is still a work in progress, too. For now, only videos in English can be auto-captioned, although other languages will be supported in the future, Google said.
Also, any background noise or music tracks will make it difficult or even impossible to transcribe spoken words.
This feature has actually been available since November 2009, but only to a limited number of accounts. The automatic captioning service will be offered for all new video uploads , although account holders can request transcription specifically for their videos through their YouTube accounts.