Automatic Subtitles Rolling Out on Youtube

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Google has announced that it is to deploy automatic captions across certain YouTube channels in an attempt to reach out to deaf users and make the service a little more accessible.

In a post about the latest update on the Official Google Blog, the company points out that for as long as it’s had the ability to add captions to YouTube videos, it’s had the ability to add multiple caption tracks. The new captions are automatically generated, which means that videos on any of the channels offering subtitles will, for now, be machine generated. While we’re sure that’ll cause some issues with lost-in-translation moments, it’s certainly the best way of gearing up to caption a significant portion of YouTube’s content.

Perhaps most interesting about the news is that it also includes an announcement that should make it far easier for users to add their own captioning tracks, using a feature called auto-timing.

Essentially, all auto-timing does is make it so that users don’t need to manually tag their captions so that they display at the right times, as the name implies. According to Google’s Ken Harrenstien, “With auto-timing, you no longer need to have special expertise to create your own captions in YouTube. 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.”

For now, we’re just curious to see just how well machine generated subtitles stack up, but if it’s effective then it could very well open up an impressive amount of existing content on YouTube to deaf or hearing-impaired users without people necessarily having to go through and manually type all of that content.

For now, the automatic captions will only be available on thirteen YouTube channels, including Google, YouTube, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Yale, UCLA, Duke, UCTV, Columbia, PBS, National Geographic, Demand Media and UNSW. For more details you can check out the Google blog post on the new captioning setup.

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