Google Moves YouTube Auto-Caption Into Mainstream

Google reported moving its automatic speech-recognition and closed-captioning technology out of beta Thursday, making it available to the YouTube community. The company first announced the auto-capturing technology in November with an aim to make the visual clips more accessible to the hearing impaired or anyone searching for videos online, including search engines.

Auto-captioning combines some of the speech-to-text algorithms found in Google's Voice Search to automatically generate video captions when requested by a viewer. A "request processing" button for uncaptioned videos allows any video owner to click to speed up the availability of auto-captions. It takes some time to process all the available video.

Google has plans to broaden the feature with more languages in the coming months. Still, automating captions is not a perfect science, and the owner of the video needs to check to make sure they are accurate, Hiroto Tokusei, YouTube product manager, explains.



The technology has been around for about 50 years, and optimizing videos for search engines has always proved challenging. aimClear founder Marty Weintraub says Google crawled the captions and pulled text into Google organic SERPs (search engine results pages) in the past, and Chase Norlin, chief executive officer at AlphaBird, an online video syndication company, sees no reason for Google to stop now.

Norlin explains that the auto-captioning technology provides more metadata for search engines to discover and index the clips. "I won't be surprised if they find a way to index ratings to provide even more metadata as people increasingly access these videos from their TV," he says, telling me about his recent Apple TV purchase and how he watches YouTube videos on the big screen.

"The more metadata associated with the video, the easier it will become for engines to grab the content and for people searching to find it," Norlin says.

While YouTube launched the service as a test last year, it wasn't the first to introduce this type of technology. In May 2009, the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference, better known as TED, introduced the TED Open Translation Project, which brings information to the non-English-speaking world by offering subtitles, interactive transcripts and the ability to translate any talk by volunteers.

Working with the multilingual subtitling service dotSUB, TED implemented a system to coordinate and automate translations of individual videos. Spanish is the language with the most translated talks to date.

An example of auto-captioning:

2 comments about "Google Moves YouTube Auto-Caption Into Mainstream".
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  1. Dain Binder, March 4, 2010 at 11:24 p.m.

    Hello, the video shown is in regular Closed Caption; not the new auto caption. Currently you must turn on the setting by going to

    Once it is on a good video to see it in action is the iPad one;

  2. Sam Gale from Creare Group, March 5, 2010 at 7:17 a.m.

    Firstly the Auto-Caption feature isnt perfect just yet. Unless the audio is clear, there will be some problems. With this however, the owner of the video has the option of downloading the transcript and edit accordingly. Then they can then re-upload them again with the updated version. Hopefully in the future Google's ASR technology will have improved so video owners don't have to do this, but hey it's a start.

    Secondly, adding these transcripts to your YouTube video could also make finding specific videos easier. Just like keywords and titles, and assuming that the star of the video states something similar to the keywords and title, why not?!

    Below is our latest Video Blog in response to YouTube's Auto-Caption.

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