A few months ago, I opened a message from someone who watched a video of mine. The message said:
“I am intrigued from reading what the people have commented on your videos. Not to mention your charismatic expression…
One teeny-weeny problem here: I am deaf and cannot understand what you have been saying on the videos. I wonder if it is possible to subtitle your videos. The subtitles also benefit the hearing people who are learning English as foreign language.
I know the technology to add the subtitles exists, but it is not always this easy sometimes.”
This really got me thinking. I had never really thought about how the hearing impaired really can’t watch online videos and get the full effect, unless someone manually put captions on the video itself, or if the video featured signing. It’s been something on my mind and something I personally have been trying to work on. I want everyone to be able get the message — not just in my video, but in everyone else’s as well.
Google, the parent company of YouTube, announced Thursday morning, in a blog post by Ken Harrenstien, a Software Engineer for Google and who happens to be deaf himself, that YouTube will now host two new features which that help the hearing impaired.
While YouTube has supported a feature to enable captions on videos for a while, most users have found it difficult to figure out. The first new feature, Automatic Captions, is currently only available on a few educational channels, along with most of Google channels. The technology behind this feature is very advanced, and will eventually roll out to more channels. Harrenstien writes, “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.”
The next feature, Automatic Timing, will be very useful for all YouTube users. At present, if you want to have closed captioning on your video you need to not only upload the script but also include times of when each caption goes up. Now all you need is a script written out on a simple text application. After you have it all written out, you can choose which video the captions are for, and upload the file. After that you are done. Within a matter of minutes, Google will take the script and match the words with your speech using voice recognition.
“You should see both features available in English by the end of the week,” Harrenstien says. “For our initial launch, auto-caps are only visible on a handful of partner channels. Because auto-caps are not perfect, we want to make sure we get feedback from both viewers and video owners before we roll them out more broadly. Auto-timing, on the other hand, is rolling out globally for all English-language videos on YouTube. We hope to expand these features for other channels and languages in the future.”
The video below explains exactly how to use the new features.