Autocaptioned YouTube Videos

captioned video

An example of an autocaptioned YouTube video. It IS time.

I wrote about advances in captioning technology and how this could make online video exponentially more useful almost a year ago.  Captions are obvoiusly very important for people with hearing impairments but can also be useful for students studying a language.

At the time, work was being done on automating the process because it takes several hours to transcribe the text and then synchronize it to each hour of video.  Manually captioning all of the video that exists online or even that is currently being created is simply not possible.  What a difference a year makes.

YouTube recently announced the addition of an automatic captions feature.  This announcement picked up by Mashable and it echoed through the Twittersphere.  My first reaction was, “Finally!”  Followed by the question, “I wonder how accurate it is.”

Ken Petri, Program Director for the Ohio State Web Accessibility Center, addressed these concerns in an email to the OSU Exploring Learning Technologies community:

If you have ever seen the results from Google Voice’s automatic transcription you know they are usually not perfect. For an educational context, a perfect or close to perfect transcript is usually necessary. This and the fact that most of you will not have access to the automated transcription feature in YouTube means that, while it is an exciting announcement, it is not a panacea.

Fortunately, you can opt to upload your own transcript and have YouTube auto-align it to your video.  If the video is scripted (as opposed to improvised) it can be easy to obtain a trascript.  Transcribing a video can take a long, long time, but automating one step in the process is helpful.

In general, every step that is automated will increase speed and efficiency while lowering costs, but will also introduce inaccuracies.  As each step in improved, we will get closer and closer to the goal of captioning every online video.


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