YouTube: English Auto-Captioning Available for All Users

English-language auto-captioning of YouTube videos, which was initially rolled out on a small number of channels in November, is now available for all users of the Google-owned video site.

Product manager Hiroto Tokusei announced the rollout in a post on the YouTube Blog. Highlights follow, along with a captioned video of the speech by President Barack Obama about the recent earthquake that struck Chile:

Making video easily accessible is something we’re working hard to address at YouTube. One of the first steps we took was the development of a caption feature in 2008. In November of last year, we released auto-captioning for a small, select group of partners. Auto-captioning combines some of the speech-to-text algorithms found in Google’s Voice Search to automatically generate video captions when requested by a viewer. The video owner can also download the auto-generated captions, improve them, and upload the new version. Viewers can even choose an option to translate those captions into any one of 50 different languages — all in just a couple of clicks.

Today, we are opening up auto-captions to all YouTube users. There will even be a “request processing” button for uncaptioned videos that any video owner can click on if they want to speed up the availability of auto-captions. It will take some time to process all the available video, so here are some things to keep in mind:

While we plan to broaden the feature to include more languages in the months to come, currently, auto-captioning is only for videos where English is spoken.

Just like any speech-recognition application, auto-captions require a clearly spoken audio track. Videos with background noise or a muffled voice can’t be auto-captioned.

Auto-captions aren’t perfect and, just like any other transcription, the owner of the video needs to check to make sure they’re accurate. In other cases, the audio file may not be good enough to generate auto-captions. But please be patient — our speech-recognition technology gets better every day.