Saturday, November 21, 2009

Google to Add Captions, Improving YouTube Videos

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In the first major step toward making millions of videos on YouTube accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired people, Google unveiled new technologies on Thursday that will automatically bring text captions to many videos on the site.

The technology will also open YouTube videos to a wider foreign market and make them more searchable, which will make it easier for Google to profit from them.

While the technology can insert captions only on English-language speech, Google is giving users the choice of using its automatic translation system to read the captions in 51 languages. That could broaden the appeal of YouTube videos to millions of other people who do not speak English but could use the captioning technology to read subtitles in their native language.

The speech recognition technology that Google uses to turn speech into text is not new; Google currently uses it to transcribe voice mail messages for users of its Google Voice service. But Ken Harrenstien, a deaf engineer who helped develop the automatic captioning system, said the technology had never been applied on such a large scale.

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