Google has combined several technologies into one, powerful new tool. Its ASR engine (automated speech recognition) will automatically transcribe any audio source, including the audio that is part of video material, such as that on Youtube. This has now been made to work with Youtube’s auto-caption system. Put the two together and anyone can upload or select a video and have it captioned automatically. In addition, it adds the timecodes automatically so that the captions appear exactly when those words are spoken (a very time-consuming job to do by hand!). This is great news if you use video materials in your classroom or self-access centre, or if you would like your students to have access to materials outside the classroom. I could imagine using this myself with videos that I enjoy watching and to play with turning on and off the captions to see how much I could understand. To use it with your self-produced videos, just set up a Youtube channel (it may take another couple of months before it is rolled out for everyone). You can download the captions and, for example, print them out for use in class for further discussion. The feature is also particularly helpful for people with a hearing disability (and was created by someone who is deaf). Someone on www.twit.tv‘s podcast also pointed out that this was a great feature for people who speak a language but are unable to read it (although this tool is currently only available in English – this is set to change in the future).
There are so many good, free tools out there these days. In discussions with various institutions I visit, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that the need for proprietory software is becoming smaller and smaller.