To help people with disabilities, researchers at Facebook AI have made live video content more accessible by enabling automatic closed captions for Facebook Live and Workplace Live.
At the moment, Facebook Live automatic captions support six languages — English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and French.
While Facebook provides automatic closed captioning for on-demand videos in 16 languages, and just announced similar capabilities for Instagram IGTV, access to live, real-time news and information was still a dream for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – have disabling hearing loss, and that is projected to increase to over 900 million by 2050.
“Facebook Live automatic captions are helping governments disseminate crucial public health information, and ensuring that millions of viewers across the world – whether they have hearing loss, or are just watching where audio is not available – get the message,” Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday.
The voice and video calling have surged in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic as people around the world check in with family, friends and colleagues.
“Video captioning is critical for people like me in the deaf community during a public health emergency,” said Brenden Gilbert, a production operations engineer at Facebook.
The rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused a spike in both the supply and demand of public health information.
Several governments discovered that video captioning was not just a nice-to-have, but imperative, especially in the absence of available sign language interpreters.
“Many of them needed captions to comply with their own disability access rules for public broadcasts,” explained Daniel McKinnon, a Product Manager at Facebook.
Julian Chan, a Facebook AI software engineer said that the AI system is also capable of adapting to new words such as “Covid,” which is essential for captioning public health information-based broadcasts during the pandemic.
Facebook said that the broadcasters can count on automatic closed captions to support their efforts to get the message out, whether a state official is sharing authoritative health guidance, or someone is simply taking their viewers behind the scenes of a day in their life — during Covid-19 and beyond.
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