Friday, 20 November 2009

Automatic Captions in YouTube

Accessibility of online video is an important challenge that Google and YouTube are committed to. Our US colleagues have announced exciting advances in captioning on YouTube and it's great to see the University of New South Wales is a partner for the initial roll-out of this new feature.

Ishtar Vij, Policy Team, Google Australia & New Zealand

The rest of this blog is cross-posted from the Official Google Blog

Since we first announced captions in Google Video and YouTube, we've introduced multiple caption tracks, improved search functionality and even automatic translation. Each of these features has had great personal significance to me, not only because I helped to design them, but also because I'm deaf. Today, I'm in Washington, D.C. to announce what I consider the most important and exciting milestone yet: machine-generated automatic captions.

Since the original launch of captions in our products, we’ve been happy to see growth in the number of captioned videos on our services, which now number in the hundreds of thousands. This suggests that more and more people are becoming aware of how useful captions can be. As we’ve explained in the past, captions not only help the deaf and hearing impaired, but withmachine translation, they also enable people around the world to access video content in any of 51 languages. Captions can also improve search and even enable users to jump to the exact parts of the videos they're looking for.

However, like everything YouTube does, captions face a tremendous challenge of scale. Every minute, 20 hours of video are uploaded. How can we expect every video owner to spend the time and effort necessary to add captions to their videos? Even with all of the captioning support already available on YouTube, the majority of user-generated video content online is still inaccessible to people like me.

To help address this challenge, we've combined Google's automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions, or auto-caps for short. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video. The captions will not always be perfect (check out the video below for an amusing example), but even when they're off, they can still be helpful—and the technology will continue to improve with time.

In addition to automatic captions, we’re also launching automatic caption timing, or auto-timing, to make it significantly easier to create captions manually. With auto-timing, you no longer need to have special expertise to create your own captions in YouTube. All you need to do is create a simple text file with all the words in the video and we’ll use Google’s ASR technology to figure out when the words are spoken and create captions for your video. This should significantly lower the barriers for video owners who want to add captions, but who don’t have the time or resources to create professional caption tracks.

To learn more about how to use auto-caps and auto-timing, check out this short video and our help center article:

You should see both features available in English by the end of the week. For our initial launch, auto-caps are only visible on a handful of partner channels (list below*). Because auto-caps are not perfect, we want to make sure we get feedback from both viewers and video owners before we roll them out more broadly. Auto-timing, on the other hand, is rolling out globally for all English-language videos on YouTube. We hope to expand these features for other channels and languages in the future. Please send us your feedback to help make that happen.

Today I'm more hopeful than ever that we'll achieve our long-term goal of making videos universally accessible. Even with its flaws, I see the addition of automatic captioning as a huge step forward.

Partners for the initial launch of auto-caps: UC BerkeleyStanfordMITYaleUCLADuke,UCTVColumbiaPBSNational GeographicDemand MediaUNSW and most Google &YouTube channels.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

How We Think About Social

Social features like commenting, rating, video responses and even just emailing or IMing a video's link have always been a part of the YouTube experience. So that's why we spend a lot of time here thinking about how to make the site an even more social place. We're especially focused on wanting to make it as easy as possible for you to find the people you know on YouTube and to follow their activity (what videos are they rating? favoriting? commenting on?) by subscribing to their channel; it's a great way to stay up on what they're into as well as discover new content yourself. As you consume these videos and start sharing your own, you in turn "feed" your friends a tasty helping of video goodness. It breaks into this virtuous distribution cycle:

As we've built these tools directly into YouTube itself, with things like friend suggestions based on your Gmail address book and connecting your YouTube account to social networks via our AutoShare feature, we've started to see people becoming even more social. Some of this activity is hard to quantify -- every day millions of YouTube links are sent via email, IM, Twitter and other communication methods -- but we can tell you that:
  • Over one million people are AutoSharing videos to Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader
  • Each AutoShared Tweet you send out from YouTube turns into an average of seven new sessions on
  • Over a million people have found and subscribed to at least one friend on YouTube based on our Friend Suggest feature
  • Most Tweeted video yesterday? Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"
  • More than one million new subscriptions are created every day
We hope these numbers will only rise as we focus on giving you the tools you need to connect with the people who matter most to you. In the process, expect to be entertained and informed by the videos circulating amongst your most trusted friends, subscribers and networks. You can get started today by ensuring that you're discoverable on YouTube (click here and check off "Let others find my channel on YouTube if they have my email address") and by connecting your account to your external networks via AutoShare (click here to set that up).

What do you think "social" on YouTube means, and where would you like to see it go? Leave a comment below.

Brian Glick, Product Manager, and James Phillips, Software Engineer

1080p HD Is Coming to YouTube

We're excited to say that support for watching 1080p HD videos in full resolution is on its way. Starting next week, YouTube's HD mode will add support for viewing videos in 720p or 1080p, depending on the resolution of the original source, up from our maximum output of 720p today.

As resolution of consumer cameras increases, we want to make sure YouTube is the best home on the web to showcase your content. For viewers with big monitors and a fast computer, try switching to 1080p to get the most out of the fullscreen experience.

Just how much larger is 1080p? Take a look at the following screenshots from this video:

Standard - 360p

HQ - 480p

HD - 720p

HD - 1080p

Have an HD camera? We would love to see your awesome 1080p videos! Be creative and choose subjects that really show off the beauty of your camera. We will run the best examples on our homepage in a future spotlight.

And those of you who have already uploaded in 1080p, don't worry. We're in the process of re-encoding your videos so we can show them the way you intended.

Billy Biggs, Software Engineer, recently watched "Toy Story 3 - Official Teaser Trailer [HD]."