In a fairly short period of time, YouTube has gone from a relatively unknown website for watching funny cat videos to a regular household name. In fact, a day rarely goes by that we don’t tune in. Whether we’re enjoying a friend’s vacation video, learning how to tie sailor’s knots or recapping a presidential speech, YouTube is most likely the place we would turn.

Not convinced of YouTube’s relevance? YouTube currently reports over 300 hours of video uploaded each minute, 4,950,000,000 videos watched on the site each day, and 900 million unique visits to the website each month. It is clear that YouTube has become an integral part of the lives of people throughout the world. (For more fun facts on YouTube, visit statisticbrain.com).

Closed Captions Haven’t Always Been the Norm

Viewing YouTube videos is not always easy for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, unless of course, the video has closed captions. Closed captions have not always been as readily available as they are today. Liat Kaver – product manager at YouTube remembers his childhood in a world without closed captions. “I felt I was missing out because I often had to guess at what was happening on the screen or make up my own version of the story in my head” (googleblog.com). Liat grew up in Costa Rica and finding captions in Spanish were an even bigger obstacle for him to overcome. Since childhood, Liat has dreamt of making closed captions more readily available to the 300 million people living with hearing loss across the globe.

Today, Liat describes himself as lucky to be following his dream, as part of the YouTube development team.

Advanced Technology to the Rescue!

Back in 2006, Google introduced captions for it’s video sharing site: YouTube. Three short years later, they introduced automated speech recognition (ASR) technology. At first, the technology did not always go as planned, sometimes making hilarious mistakes, as can be seen in this silly “Caption Fails” video. While the technology was no where near perfect, it still helped millions of deaf or hearing impaired people around the globe to enjoy videos they would otherwise not be able to.

Since it’s inception, YouTube has had a goal of improving the accuracy of it’s automatic closed captioning capabilities. Luckily for viewers, the automated speech recognition technology has come leaps and bounds from 2009. By improving machine learning algorithms and expanding training data the technology has improved its accuracy by 50%. The technology is now one step closer to the typical rate of human error.

That’s not all. Currently, Google provides automatic closed captioning in the following languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Google is working to improve accuracy in each of these languages, to help ensure children and adults with hearing loss, like Liat, across the globe can enjoy their content – regardless of their spoken language.

1,000,000,000 Videos and Counting

Last month, YouTube announced that they have now officially captioned over 1 billion videos – including those automatically captioned and those captioned by their creators. That is a whopping number for a project only about 11 years old! It is estimated that about 15 million videos with closed captions are streamed on the website daily. The service is clearly bringing vast benefits to millions of people throughout the world.

A History of Diversity at Google

At Google (the parent company of YouTube), diversity has always been one of their core values. Google has invested in high quality unconscious bias trainings for it’s employees. These trainings aim to help Google employees or “Googlers”, to recognize their own unconscious biases and make conscious decisions to combat them. Google has also been on the forefront of efforts to creating an inclusive workplace for Googlers with disabilities by creating the Disability Alliance.

AZ Balance and Hearing Aids

At AZ Balance and Hearing Aids, we care about you and your hearing health – and this extends further than your ability to enjoy videos on websites like YouTube. Reach out to us today to schedule your hearing test. We look forward to helping you through your journey to better and healthier hearing. How could healthy hearing benefit your life?