Marlee Matlin had an idea for a reality show that she hoped would bring some insight into the lives and struggles of deaf people and how they cope. But while reality TV has brought us wife swappers, party girls, aging rock stars and dieting divas, apparently no one was ready for something that real.
So instead, the hearing-impaired actress who won an Academy Award as lead actress for her role in "Children of a Lesser God," took her show "My Deaf Family" to Google's YouTube. You can watch it here.
"Deaf and hard of hearing people make up one of the largest minority groups," she said in an interview through her interpreter, Jack Jason, "and yet there has never been a show, a reality documentary series that features what life is like for them." Matlin financed the show, which tells the story of a family in Fremont, Calif. All the family members are deaf, except for the oldest son, Jared, and the youngest, Elijah. It is narrated by Jared.
Matlin shopped her pilot to network executives, who purported to "love it." But none would take the plunge.
"They didn't quite know if they could pull it off, or even how," Matlin said.
Refusing to give up, Matlin turned to the Internet, more specifically to YouTube, the world's default broadcaster of Web video.
"I didn't want to wait for the networks to warm up to the idea of whether the show would be a hit or not with audiences," she said. "So I decided to put it out there on my own terns. YouTube is akin to having my own [TV] network."
There's another reason Matlin chose YouTube. The Google subsidiary in November introduced an automatic captioning system for its videos. The system is a mash-up of Google's speech-to-text voice recognition technology used in Google Voice and captioning software that syncs the text with the video.
Right now, the experimental program can only recognize spoken English, but once transcribed, it can translate the text to 50 different languages.
"Google’s mission is to make all the world’s information universally accessible," explained Ken Harrenstien, the software engineer who led the captioning effort. "We’re about accessibility to everyone for everything."
Because YouTube is inundated with a constant stream of videos (about 24 hours of videos are uploaded to the site every minute), it does not automatically caption every piece that comes along. Instead, viewers have to request that a particular video be captioned. Once the request is made, it takes about 24 hours to deliver the captions.
Harrenstein cautions that the captions aren't going to be perfect. Ambient noise can affect the translation. But the software is also prone to error. YouTube is hoping that the owners of the videos will upload corrected captions through a quick process it has designed.
That's good enough for Matlin, who said, "The process isn't 100% there yet. But they've done it. And that's a good thing."( Collapse )Marlee's Twitter
& My Deaf Family Youtube Channel