Google Rolls Out Automated Captioning for YouTube Videos

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youtube-closed-captionsGoogle today announced that they are adding automatic captioning capability to videos on YouTube.

This is a fantastic step forward for accessibility for deaf Internet users.  Says Vice President Vint Cerf, who is hearing impaired himself:

“Google believes that the world’s information should be accessible to everyone.  One of the big challenges of the video medium is whether it can be made accessible to everyone.”

Until this announcement, users have only had the ability to manually upload their own captions, something many users have indeed done.  With the new system, the captions will be automated, generated by machine, and will initially only be rolling out to a handful of partner channels’ videos.

The  Automated Speech Recognition technology being employed by Google struggles a bit with background noise, and still sometimes makes mistakes.  Engineers hope to continue improvement in the performance of the captioning machines, and the eventual goal is to have closed caption capability enabled on all videos uploaded to the site in the near future.

The system only works for the English language at present, but those English captions are easily translated into one of 51 other languages in an instant.

In addition to the automatic captions, Google has also improved the self-captioning services.  Users can now upload a script of the video, and then the system will use automated software to match the script’s text up with the actual audio sections.

There are an estimated 25 million people in the US with hearing loss, and according to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), there are 70 million people in the world who are deaf.  Captioning for online video is an absolute must.

Think about how many of your favorite viral videos would be dramatically altered if you were only able to hear it partially, or not at all.  Captioning is easily taken for granted by hearing individuals, but it is hugely important toward making the web a friendlier and more welcoming place for the hearing impaired.

Ill be following up with a post in the next few weeks about the power of this with regard to video search and video SEO.  I have been doing some testing which will show the incredible results that this can have in search.

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