YouTube Offers Free Caption Service

YouTube is releasing a caption service so that those who cannot hear the audio on the site's videos will be able to read along instead. YouTube, a division of Google (GOOG), posted a message on its "Broadcasting Ourselves:) The Official YouTube Blog," saying, "Today, we are opening up auto-captions to all YouTube users. There will even be a "request processing" button for un-captioned videos that any video owner can click on if they want to speed up the availability of auto-captions."The ability to generate captions without human transcription is based on Google's own auto-captioning service, which uses speech-to-text algorithms found in Google Voice. The technology allows users to download captions and translate them into 50 languages. For now, instant captions will only be available in English.

Google explained that it is launching the new service because 700 million people worldwide are expected to have hearing impairment problems by 2015.

The news will almost certainly improve Google's image for doing good where it can. Recent troubles including antitrust claims against the company, service problems with its Nexus One handset, and legal problems with its relationships with authors and book publishers have undermined Google's own "Don't be evil" philosophy. But this service could eventually help hundreds of millions of people through technology that has applications well beyond YouTube. And it is particularly impressive that the company is not charging fees for the service.

The new technology will also buttress Google's reputation as a global leader in innovation. The company has launched amazing services in recent years, most of them free, like Google Maps, Google Earth, and the Android mobile operating service. Google may stumble from time to time, but its overall record for invention and generosity is, once again, deserved.
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