Instagram launches automatic captions for IGTV to promote accessibility

The feature is initially rolling out in 16 languages.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Credentials
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Instagram is adding automatic captions to IGTV.


Instagram on Tuesday launched AI-powered automatic video captions for IGTV, part of an effort to make the platform more accessible to all users. The feature is available in 16 languages. 

Users will automatically see the captions if their volume is turned all the way down. They can turn on captions via settings, or from an in-video dropdown menu. This feature can be helpful for people with hearing loss, which impacts around 466 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

"Audio within Instagram videos is unique in that there are a variety of different languages, topics, acoustic conditions, cultural slang and accents," a Facebook company representative said. "Auto-captioning videos requires cutting-edge research and engineering to power the artificial intelligence that we use in the process."

This is the latest step Instagram has taken to promote accessibility in its products. In 2018, the company introduced automatic alternative text, which allows people with visual impairments to hear descriptions of photos through their screen reader while using Feed, Explore and Profile. Instagram also simultaneously rolled out custom alternative text, allowing users to add stronger descriptions of their photos when uploading, which people using screen readers are then able to hear.

See also: Instagram Reels tutorial: How to use the TikTok competitor

Facebook, Instagram's parent company, has also launched a handful of accessibility features lately, including scalable font sizes and contextual headings. More tech companies are launching accessibility features as organizations and advocates point out the need for greater tech accessibility, especially in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year. The coronavirus pandemic has also shed light on the urgency of disability accommodations.

Instagram launched IGTV, its standalone app for videos from creators, in 2018. The service is also embedded within the main Instagram app. As Instagram continues to compete for users' attention against the likes of TikTok, the company last month unveiled Reels, its short-form video feature.