Google brings speech recognition to political videos — what’s next?

Google just released a cool new gadget that lets you search the text of all the videos in the “politicians” channel on Google-owned YouTube.

Apparently, speech recognition technology developed by Google Research is now used to transcribe every video in the politicians channel. So when you search for “Iraq,” you can see every video where Iraq is mentioned by John McCain, by Barack Obama or by any politician. Now, many of these speeches get transcribed anyway, either in part or in their entirety — it’s not like people had a hard time Googling McCain’s statements on Iraq before. But this makes even more political content available for searching, and it also helps you find the relevant portions of these videos. Every mention of your search term is highlighted as a yellow line in the video timeline, and when you mouse over the line you get a short snippet of the transcript.

There have been some complaints that the gadget only shows tiny segments of text, rather than the full transcript, which is arguably another reflection of the shallow, soundbite-driven nature of a lot of political coverage. But it’s better to think of the transcript as a guide to the video, not a substitute. That’s particularly true since, as you might expect, the transcriptions aren’t perfect. For example, in one video, Obama’s discussion of “the courage that that man” becomes “the courage of Batman.” (Why the heck was I searching for “Batman”? Um, next question.)

Users can install the gadget to their iGoogle homepages. It’s also worth noting that in its announcement, Google says it wants “to find out more about how people use speech technology to search and consume videos.” So if the gadget is a hit, we may start seeing similar features throughout YouTube.

Check out the embedded version of the politics gadget below.


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