YouTube automatic captioning: one more reason GOOG's not evil

Earlier this week I noted that YouTube's partnership with Univision was one more reason to make the web service available in schools. Now, Google has introduced some more useful YouTube technology: automatic captioning.

Earlier this week I noted that YouTube's partnership with Univision was one more reason to make the web service available in schools. What better way to supplement Spanish instruction than with current, relevant, and interesting content freely available through YouTube? Now, Google has introduced some more useful YouTube technology: automatic captioning.

Perhaps having a hearing impaired vice president (Vint Cerf) helped make this project a reality. The lead developer on the project is also deaf, but regardless of motivation, automatic captioning of YouTube videos is yet another reason to keep the service open in schools and libraries, where the increased accessibility can provide a useful tool both for deaf students and for multimodal learners who can benefit from text accompanying video and audio.

While the captioning is in its infancy, it's already associated with National Geographic, providing an immediate educational resource. The speech recognition technology that can generate the captions will also improve video search capabilities, allowing educators to more quickly find relevant materials and discard the junk that also likes to inhabit YouTube.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, is the ability to add transcripts to videos. Even if the speech recognition isn't perfect (which it isn't yet, although Google has a lot of experience with the technology through Google Voice and GOOG-411, both of which are improving fast), users can transcribe video, upload the text, and then automatic timing will advance the text as needed. How useful would that be for online course content?

Google may be embroiled in any number of antitrust-related difficulties, but from this perspective, at least, GOOG is certainly not evil. In fact, this is yet another really useful bit of educational technology from the company.