YouTube had slowly rolled out auto-captioning for videos back in late 2009 and today it announces auto-captioning for all the videos. Of course, it doesn’t really mean all the videos, but the videos that have English as the spoken language. These videos use Google’s internally developed speech recognition technology to transcribe the audio into written words.
More and more videos will now display a small cc button, clicking on which will allow user to enable captions. Another great feature is the translation of captions from English to over 50 languages including Hindi. You can also customize the background and font for your captions by clicking on caption settings. As YouTube mentions, the transcription is not going to be perfect but will definitely get better each day. Eventually YouTube plans to have captions for all videos in all languages but that phase is obviously quiet far away now.
Let’s pause for a brief moment and consider what this would mean. It means that hundreds of millions of deaf people and people who cannot understand English would be able to enjoy the videos. It also means that sites like Lyrics.com and Recipes.com might go out of business since people could get these things within the YouTube videos. However, just like every other technology, users applying the technology have to be quiet careful so that it doesn’t turn into a disaster. It means that don’t do a chemistry experiment just by reading the auto-captions on a YouTube video; an error in the speech recognition technology can set you on fire.