PCF launches Universal Subtitles for web videos

The Participatory Culture Foundation has announced Universal Subtitles, a new project that aims to provide a mechanism to make web video subtitling an easy task anyone can participate and benefit from.

The PCF envisions three components:

  • a widget that can be presented along any web video with a very user friendly interface to transcribe and/or translate the speech
  • an open protocol that would enable browsers to request subtitles for videos
  • a community of subtitling volunteers gathered around a subject, language or anything else

Mozilla is helping this initiative through the Mozilla Creative Collective, running a Design Challenge to collect different ideas on how this widget should work. Here’s a screenshot of the current version:

I tried it and found it intuitive but not error proof. One of the main problems I encountered was the lack of  a keyboard pause button which would be very helpful to catch up with fast speech.

I thing there is also an opportunity for an interface with voice recognition tools that may be available through OS services, the web browser, or a browser plugin (like a Firefox or Chrome extension), that could provide a basic transcription and synchronization to build on, accelerating the process significantly.

In the same way, once a transcription is available, the widget could produce a machine translation into the requested language that could serve as a basis for human translations.

All in all, this is another great project for web video to reach its full potential.