Facebook has added better connectivity for hearing-impaired Facebook Live users. It now shows closed captions on live broadcasts. An effort that stays true to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to connect the world.
Facebook’s Supratik Lahiri, Product Manager, and Jeffrey Wieland, Director of Accessibility, announced the good news in a blog post. They said broadcasters may now include closed captions to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience live videos.
If you turn on captioning settings, you will automatically see closed captions whenever available, they added.
Unlike recorded or uploaded Page videos, Facebook is not generating the captions automatically. It has allowed third-parties to use the Live API to add subtitles.
While it will increase the use of captions on Live videos, it is restrictive or expensive for Live broadcasts, as it will require lower latency in real-time streaming.
The social network has allowed only publishers using the Live API to generate CEA-608 standard closed captions or those working with tech vendors in its new feature. Captions will appear on mobile and desktop when enabled.
With nearly 400 million people worldwide who have hearing impairments, Facebook is tapping into a considerable growth opportunity. As more people watch its videos, more people will spend time on its apps. Eventually, these viewers will help the company generate revenue thru its ads.
Room for Improvement
In 2006, YouTube pioneered closed captions and automatic speech-based captioning thru its videos. A few years later, it expanded to Facebook Live videos and added support for more languages.
In comparison, Snapchat only added the option for closed captions to Discover last year.
The technology is nowhere near perfect. And its inaccuracies are most glaring in Live broadcasts. Zuckerberg’s Harvard speech earlier this month exposed the new feature’s weaknesses, as shown by TechCrunch.
Harvard’s system generated the captions, not Facebook. But it highlights that real-time live translation is hard and requires several resources to perfect.
Facebook Live broadcasts with closed captions is still new. As speech recognition improves and its technology expands to a larger scale, the company may make all Live videos more accessible.
Recently, Facebook has made other advances in accessibility. In April, they released automatic alternative text for images posted on its platform. It uses object recognition to describe photos for its visually-impaired users to know the content.