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YouTube turning on automatic captions

Google and YouTube engineers plan to show off their work on using Google Voice technology to automatically generate captions for certain YouTube videos.

Google is ready to launch an ambitious attempt to provide captions for videos on YouTube.

The company is holding an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to announce that it has developed a way to use the voicemail transcription technology in Google Voice to allow videos to be uploaded to YouTube with captions automatically generated. Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google, will host the event highlighting Google's work in bringing this technology to YouTube.

Ever since 2006, Google has allowed those uploading videos to first Google Video, and then YouTube, to place captions in their videos so that deaf or hearing-impaired viewers can follow what's going on. However, there's only about 100,000 videos on YouTube (out of the hundreds of millions on the site) that use the caption option because of the time and expense of transcribing a video, uploading a caption, and timing it properly to the action onscreen.

Warning that results may vary at first, Google engineers later this week plan to turn automatic captioning loose on the YouTube Education channel for videos in English. YouTube will also activate a feature that lets video uploaders do their own transcription but syncs up the timing of the caption itself, so long as all the words in the video are present in the text file uploaded along with the video.

Google plans to demonstrate the automatic caption technology later on Thursday.