YouTube to Launch Auto Captions

Published: March 6th 2010

YouTube CEO Chad Hurley
Pic: WikiMedia Commons
YouTube's parent company, has announced on its blog that automatic captions will start rolling out across the site. The world's largest video hosting service will begin to automatically add subtitles to videos using Google's voice recognition program. Thus YouTube will become far more accessible to speakers of different languages, the hearing impaired and additionally YouTube will make one giant leap towards search engine dominance.

YouTube announced on November 2009 that it would be launching a new automatic caption service. The service was good but limited, it offered English captions but those were found only on 13 of YouTube's streaming channels. These include National Geographic, Columbia, as well as most Google and YouTube channels. But, from this day on, all users will be able to use Google's speech recognition technology, in order to create subtitles for their content.

While Google already admitted that the new technology is not perfect, nevertheless it still provides a better solution than manually captioning the content. In a demonstration held the phrase "sim card" became "salmon" in text, but Google also promises that the technology "will continue to improve with time".

Automatic captioning will allow the hearing impaired to enjoy video content over the web, without any need for additional help or program. In addition, the service will allow watching content with no need for speakers that might intrude the surrounding environment. The automatic captioning service is currently supporting only English soundtracks, but Google says that making it international is its top priority and it is only a matter of time before they will achieve that.

Still, that does not mean you won't be able to enjoy the clips in your own language. The English subtitles could be translated with one button click to any of the 50 languages supported by Google's translation service, including Hebrew.

How will it work? Upon uploading a video to the site, the user would be able to create an automatic caption of the clip's soundtrack and then fix it manually, if there is a need. The user then would be able to download the subtitles file to the personal computer in a SUB or SRT file format. Users who already uploaded content, are expected to find a new button for requesting captions for their existing content. According to Google, processing each video could take some time. Hence, Google promises to add more servers if users will experience a slow service.

One of the big challenges of the video medium is whether it can be made accessible to everyone, and now Google is raising the standard and doing just that. In the web 2.0 age, where "content is king", Google - the web's searching giant, will become even bigger by "writing down" and indexing every video we have got.

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