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YouTube Adding Auto Captioning Feature

March 5, 2010

YouTube added automatic caption capability to all English-language videos on its video-sharing website Thursday.

Users have been able to manually add captions to videos since 2008, and the site started offering machine-generated captions in November of last year for a dozen of its partner channels.

YouTube product manager Hiroto Tokusei said on Thursday that the automatic caption feature is now being expanded to all videos on the site in English.

Auto-captioning uses speech-to-text technology to give users the ability to generate subtitles for videos.

“Making video easily accessible is something we’re working hard to address at YouTube,” said Tokusei, citing studies that predict that more than 700 million people worldwide will suffer from hearing impairment by 2015.

Tokusei said users could use Google’s automatic translation service to simultaneously translate the captions into 50 other languages until the auto-caption can be featured in other languages.

He said that the auto-captioning is not yet perfect and a “clearly spoken audio track” without background noise is needed to create quality captions.

Vint Cerf, the Google vice president that has also been described as the “Father of the Internet,” is one of the chief advocates for the captioning capability at YouTube.

Cerf made a personal appearance at the unveiling of the YouTube auto-caption feature at Google’s Washington offices in November.  Cerf is hearing impaired and has been wearing hearing aids since the age of 13.

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