TikTok this morning announced the launch of a new feature designed to make its app accessible to people who are hard of hearing or deaf. The company is launching automatic captions today – a feature that, when enabled, automatically transcribes speech from a video so that viewers can read what is said in the video instead of listening. Initially, automatic captions will support US English and Japanese, with additional languages coming in the coming months, TikTok says.
To use automatic subtitles, the creator will select the option on the edit page after uploading or recording a video. They can then edit the generated text to correct any errors before the video is published.
While largely designed for accessibility purposes, automatic captions can also help those who want to watch TikTok videos without sound – for example, when you’re with other people you don’t want to disturb, but without helmet. They can also be useful for those who watch videos where they are not fluent in the spoken language, as sometimes it is easier to understand what is being said when you can also read the words.
Already, many members of the TikTok community had embraced captioning by adding text overlays to their videos or using third-party captioning tools. The trend of text-to-speech, where on-screen text is read in a Siri-like voice, has also remained a popular technique among creators.
But the automatic captioning tool will work differently from the existing options as it can be turned on and off by the viewer. This means that you won’t have to see the video subtitles if you don’t want to. To turn off the subtitles, you’ll first open the share panel and then tap the subtitles button to turn them off.
TikTok says it will work to publicize the new addition to its community of creators to encourage users to make their videos accessible to a wider audience.
Automatic captions are now one of many accessibility features launched by TikTok, along with warnings from creators when they produce videos that may trigger photosensitive epilepsy, and a photosensitivity feature that allows users to ignore photosensitive content. The app also offers text-to-speech functionality and a feature to replace animated thumbnails with static images.
TikTok says it is currently undergoing an accessibility assessment to identify additional areas for improvement, and has worked with The Deaf Collective, to increase awareness of the talents and conversations taking place in communities. deaf on its application.