YouTube Auto-Captions

YouTube announced in early March that they would be extending their pilot program to enable auto-captioning for all channels.

The highlights…YouTube has announced that they’re doing this to improve accessibility, and…

  • Captions will initially only be available for English videos.
  • Auto-captions requires clearly spoken audio/
  • Auto-captions aren’t perfect, the owner will need to check that they’re accurate.
  • Auto-captions will be available for all channels.

We think this is great, if YouTube can automatically caption files, at scale and with high accuracy, that’s a great step forward for all videos, and definitely the lecture videos that we’ve been interested in the SpokenMedia project.

Though, as with SpokenMedia’s approach that builds on Jim Glass’ Spoken Language Systems research, they still have a ways to go on accuracy.

At this early date though, we can still see some significant advantages to our approach:

  • You don’t have to host your videos through YouTube to use the service SpokenMedia is developing. (YouTube locks the videos you upload into their player and service.)
  • SpokenMedia will provide a timed-aligned transcript file that you can download and use in other applications. (YouTube allows the channel publishers to download a transcript, edit it, and then reupload it for time code alignment. However, they don’t allow the public at large to download the transcript.)
  • SpokenMedia will provide an editor to improve the accuracy of the transcripts.
  • SpokenMedia will enable you to use the transcripts in other applications like search, and will let you start playing a segment within a video. (Though I’m pretty sure YouTube will be using transcripts to help users find videos–and I personally think that’s the real driver behind auto-captions search and keyword advertising. And if you know how to do it, you can construct a URL to link to a particular timepoint in a YouTube-hosted video.)

In any event, if you’ve watched the recent slidecasts of the last couple SpokenMedia presentations, you’ll see that we’ve included the impact of Auto-Captions on SpokenMedia.

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