YouTube rolls out live automatic captions for all English livestreams

The feature, available to all creators from Thursday, was previously reserved for channels with more than 1,000 subscribers.

All YouTube livestreams in English will now be available with automatic captions, the video sharing platform has announced, with plans to extend the setting to other languages “in the coming months”.

YouTube confirmed the extension of the tool, which relies on automatic speech recognition to generate a transcript of a live video, in a community forum post on Thursday, where other accessibility features were unveiled.

“Today we are announcing a few updates to captions and audio features on YouTube that will be available in the coming months,” the post reads. “Improving accessibility is a top priority for YouTube, and we hope these updates will help creators reach a wider audience.”

The forum post went on to reveal several updates to captions on mobile devices, with auto-translations for captions soon set to roll out on iOS and Android in supported languages, and the ability to search caption transcripts also in the works.

Both features are due to be made available “later this year”.

Elsewhere, YouTube confirmed that its audio tracks tool – which provides “multi-language audio” for international viewers and audio descriptions for blind and visually impaired audiences – is being tested with “a small group of creators”, with plans to roll it out more widely “in the coming quarters”.

Multiple audio tracks were first reported back in September, when a story trailer for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was released with audio description.

The post goes on to conclude with YouTube confirming that a channel permissions tool for subtitles, which would allow a trusted individual external to the channel the ability to add captions to videos, is “taking longer than expected”.

It follows a revelation by this website last month that the ‘Subtitle Editor’ role, which was considered a replacement for YouTube’s now-deprecated community captions, had still not been released – one year after the platform took the controversial decision to axe the accessibility feature.

“We’re actively working on this and will keep you updated in the coming months […] Thanks for being patient with us,” they said.

Update – 07.10.21: According to a YouTube spokesperson, the live-streaming captions feature was first rolled out to a handful of creators to test that it works smoothly for both channels and viewers, before it was made available more widely.

They also confirmed that it would be for creators to tell them which language the livestream will be available in before going live, as the captions settings cannot be adjusted in the middle of the stream and YouTube cannot know the language ahead of the broadcast starting because of a lack of context.

In a Help article on automatic captions, YouTube say that live automatic captions “won’t remain on the video” and that “new automatic captions” will be created “based on the VOD process” which applies to typical uploads on the platform.

“[These] may be different from the ones that appeared during the live stream,” it reads.

Update – 03.11.21: YouTube has announced that it has “temporarily disabled” automatic captions on new English livestreams, after experiencing an issue with the feature almost a month after launch.

We’re currently working on a fix and will update this thread as soon as we have more news,” they wrote in a community post.

Photo: YouTube.

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