YouTube Rolls Out Auto-Captioning for All Videos

YouTube wants to make it easier for viewers who are hearing impaired or speak different languages around the world, and to do that the company has begun automatically adding captions to all of its videos, it announced today. The video site has a pretty aggressive rollout plan for the auto-captioning feature, which has so far has provided captions for about 10,000 video channels, but should reach 160,000 channels by June.

YouTube first introduced captions in August 2008, allowing users to upload a captions file along with their videos. Once uploaded, viewers could access those captions by clicking on an arrow in the lower right hand corner of the video. While that option helped to improve accessibility for the hearing impaired, it required uploaders to go through the manual process of first creating captions and then uploading them, which wasn’t ideal.

Late last year, YouTube expanded its captioning capabilities by enabling a select group of content partners to test out auto-captioning, which uses the same voice recognition software as Google Voice and works with the YouTube caption system to automatically add captions to videos. Captions could then be translated into up to 50 languages from the original captioning.

But now the company is opening up auto-captioning to all users. While the company warns that it will take some time for captioning to process all of the videos in YouTube’s archives, it does say that video publishers can help “speed up” their own captions by clicking a “request processing” button for videos that they’ve uploaded but haven’t yet been captioned. For now, the auto-captioning will only work for videos recorded in English, though YouTube plans to expand that to more languages “in the months to come.”

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