And just like that, it renders my arguments about the company being evil completely moot. Because, as it turns out, I have a deaf son with cochlear implants. And he's been looking forward to this change for months, and is excited by what this means for his ability to access video content online. And while it's easy--maybe too easy--to make jokes about the Google Voice-based transcription technology that's making this work, let's be serious here for a moment. This is a milestone in technology accessibility. And when a company as big as Google does something like this on a site as popular as YouTube, we all benefit. So as a tiny pseudo-representative of the Deaf Community, Google, I thank you for this. The happy look in my son's eyes is enough to know that you've already made a difference.
And here's some info from Google, from back in November, when they announced they were doing this.
We've combined Google's automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions, or auto-caps for short. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video. The captions will not always be perfect (check out the video below for an amusing example), but even when they're off, they can still be helpful—and the technology will continue to improve with time.
In addition to automatic captions, we’re also launching automatic caption timing, or auto-timing, to make it significantly easier to create captions manually. 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. This should significantly lower the barriers for video owners who want to add captions, but who don’t have the time or resources to create professional caption tracks.
Click here to watch a YouTube video describing this important service.
Right now, captioning doesn't appear to be broadly available, but I've already seen some nice examples of it in action. Obviously, the better the audio in the clip, the better the auto-captioning. But the company is really going the extra mile by allowing people to manually edit the caption tracks. It's just a nice thing they're doing here, it really is.