Posted November 20, 2009 2:40 pm by with 5 comments

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youtube aslGoogle announced that closed captioning is coming to YouTube. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know it was already there in many videos where the creators took the time to add the subtitles for the hearing- or speaker-impaired. But now, for selected participating partners (mainly universities), YouTube itself will be adding the captions.

The captions will be machine generated and automatically timed to match the video (and still be readable, I hope). Just like any dictation program, I suppose, they’ll listen to the audio from the clips and transcribe it. Now, normally, you know I’d be in there making fun of all the hilarious errors a machine makes when transcribing the participating partners’ clips (because, hey, even humans don’t always do a good job of captioning)—but as I write this, they’re actually not doing it yet. Sigh.

Google rightly points out that this will enhance search within YouTube. Previously, only the accompanying text of a video would be searchable; now the actual content of the video would be indexable as well.

Google has actually been indexing the content of selected videos’ audio for over a year through its GAudi project. However, even after the elections of last year, they continue to focus on political news only in that project.

Also, the new automatic caption timing feature will make it easier to manually caption videos, for nonparticipating partners. You know, the rest of us.

What do you think? Are you excited for captions on videos from partners like Duke (IN YOUR FACE, FRANK AND ANDY—welcome to basketball season!)?


  • Next they should add translation. They are so many videos in other languages. I’d love to see automatic translations as well in the closed captions.
    .-= Fraser Cain´s last blog ..Cassini/IBEX Data Changes View of Heliosphere Shape =-.

  • What a cool idea! All those foreign videos to watch, very fun.
    .-= Online Business Cookbook´s last blog ..6 ways to get unique content =-.

  • Will this be both for the web and mobile?
    .-= Mobile Candy´s last blog ..SOS Online Backup comes to iPhone =-.

  • Jordan,

    As a long-time advocate for people with hearing loss, I commend Google and YouTube for making strides in the area of online video accessibility. As the owner of a realtime transcription company (and a realtime captioner myself) I can tell you that the machine-generated automatic captions will not be good enough to provide meaningful accessibility for many years to come. At best, the results are approx. 60-65% accurate. Captioning standards require at least 98% accuracy. I’ve been watching this technology closely, since I am eager to use this automatic speech-to-text technology in certain aspects of my transcription business. The reality is, it’s nowhere near ready.

    We have developed a new media player that enables searching of video based on transcripts, and we do have captioning features on the player. I am very concerned about providing the BEST access possible for those folks with hearing loss. In my opinion, videos transcribed and captioned by trained humans are still necessary for full accessibility.

    Is “something better than nothing” when it comes to captioning? Yes, when we’re speaking of videos being produced and posted by individuals. But when we’re speaking of content that is produced by businesses and universities and governmental entities, (some of whom must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act that requires accessibility on their websites), the automatic machine-generated captions are not good enough. After all, the objective is to provide EQUAL access.

    If you’d like to check out our searchable online media player, please take a look at our featured video about a deaf man in South Florida.

    The primary focus of our player is SEARCHABILITY of video, from within the player and from the internet. We are working to make the captioning features better, and we welcome your comments and feedback (on the player and on our transcription accuracy).

    Thank you for writing about this topic.

    Tanya English, Dir. of Technology
    Realtime Transcription, Inc.


  • jennifer johnson

    So I’ve been working with one of the youtube channels that has their machine transcription activate, and in case you’re wondering, so far.. NOT SO GOOD. I’ve yet to see even a single phrase come out even remotely close to what was actually said. Let’s just say that captioning a video of a prominent political figure with “… is a phenomenal sex” anything is bad news. For right now we’ll be sticking to manual transcription.