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YouTube Announces Automatic Captions

November 20, 2009

Google announced on Thursday that it would be adding automatic captions for its video sharing site YouTube, in an effort to increase accessibility for its viewers.

Machine-generated captions would become available initially only in English for videos featured on 13 YouTube partner channels, with plans to expand the feature.

Google said creating captions for videos on YouTube is much easier, due to the addition of automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology.

A range of educational channels, such as UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Yale, UCLA and PBS currently feature auto captions.

“Auto-caps is a continued step towards YouTube’s goal of making video accessible everywhere (web, mobile, TV) and to everyone (other countries, languages, alternative access modes),” YouTube said on its official blog.

“It’s also an example of using technology to enhance the video experience.”

“Since the original launch of captions in our products, we’ve been happy to see growth in the number of captioned videos on our services, which now number in the hundreds of thousands,” Ken Harrenstein, Google Software Engineer said in a blog post.

“This suggests that more and more people are becoming aware of how useful captions can be.”

“However, like everything YouTube does, captions face a tremendous challenge of scale. 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?”

“To help address this challenge, we’ve combined Google’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions, or auto-caps for short.”

Harrenstein said the new features have great importance to him not only because he helped design them, but also because he is deaf.

He said that auto-caps would use the same voice recognition algorithms as Google Voice to generate auto-caps.

In addition to auto-caps, Google also announced the launch of automatic caption timing, or auto-timing, to make it easier to create captions manually.

“With auto-timing, you no longer need to have special expertise to create your own captions in YouTube,” said Harrenstein. “All you need to do is create a simple text file with all the words in the video and we’ll use Google’s ASR technology to figure out when the words are spoken and create captions for your video.”

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