The COVID-19 pandemic is giving the world a fierce hunger for human connection and information. Messaging and calls, both voice and video, have surged in recent months as people around the world check in with family, friends, and work colleagues. Audiences for newscasts and government briefings have also ballooned as the public seeks updates on the outbreak, travel guidance, and personal hygiene advice to protect themselves from getting sick.
While there is no shortage of information, not everyone can access it. It needed to be available to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. According to the World Health Organization, over 5 percent 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. “Video captioning is critical for people like me in the deaf community during a public health emergency,” explains Brenden Gilbert, a Production Operations Engineer at Facebook. While Facebook provides automatic closed captioning for on-demand videos in 16 languages, and just announced similar capabilities for Instagram IGTV, the hunger for live, real-time news and information still needed to be met.
Facebook AI researchers and engineers have now made live video content more accessible by enabling automatic closed captions for Facebook Live and Workplace Live. Already, six languages are supported: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and French. 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. And, as workplace policies evolve, automatic captioning has become essential for employers to keep their staff and customers informed through safety updates.