YouTube Introduces Automatic Captions for Deaf Viewers

YouTube’s parent company Google has announced on its blog that automatic subtitles are to start being rolled out across its website. The machine generate subtitles will, at first, only be found on 13 channels. These include National Geographic, Columbia and most of Google and YouTube channels.

Currently YouTube offers a manual captioning service but video makers tend not to use it. The software engineer behind the technology, Ken Harrenstien, is deaf. Speaking on Google’s official blog Mr Harrenstien said:

“Since we first announced captions in Google Video and YouTube, we’ve introduced multiple caption tracks, improved search functionality and even automatic translation. Each of these features has had great personal significance to me, not only because I helped to design them, but also because I’m deaf.”

“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. This suggests that more and more people are becoming aware of how useful captions can be. Captions not only help the deaf and hearing impaired, they also enable people around the world to access video content in any of 51 languages.”

“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. 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. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video. The captions will not always be perfect but even when they’re off, they can still be helpful – and the technology will continue to improve with time.”

Vint Cerf, vice president at Google, is widely recognised as a founding father of the internet. He is also hard of hearing and has worn a hearing aid since the age of 13. “One of the big challenges of the video medium is whether it can be made accessible to everyone,” he told news agency AFP.

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