Mozilla to Crowdsource the State of the Union with Multilingual Subtitles

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 24, 2012

If you haven't tried language translation technology in a few years, it's worth revisiting it. As we covered here, it's become much easier to automate multilingual websites, there are very useful translation programs for mobile phones that you can use to communicate in foreign languages on the fly, and open source machine translation tools are flourishing. So it's notable that Mozilla will help deliver Tuesday's U.S. State of the Union Address from President Barrack Obama in multiple languages worldwide, translated in real time.

In a post called "Crowdsourcing the State of the Union," Mozilla notes that it will employ people and technology to achieve the real time translation:

"Tuesday’s State of the Union Address from U.S. President Barack Obama will include something special: crowdsourced captions and subtitles provided by everyday citizens around the world. Using new web tools from the Participatory Culture Foundation, supported by Mozilla, participants will transcribe and translate the President’s speech into dozens of languages in a matter of hours, making it more accessible to those with disabilities and in other countries across the globe."

The Participatory Culture Foundation offers a free Universal Subtitles tool that can be used to subtitle video, and the foundation offers other, similar tools. 

This experiment from Mozilla is actually part of a larger initiative to integrate open web tools with the political process, and with elections. According to Mozilla:

"The event marks the launch of “Open Election 2012,' a new partnership  between Mozilla, PBS NEWSHOUR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting  (CPB) and Participatory Culture Foundation. Open Election 2012 will showcase how new open web technologies and citizen participation can make election coverage more accessible to diverse audiences, and provide new ways to engage with the news....Throughout the election, PBS NEWSHOUR will also use 'Mozilla Popcorn,' a new HTML5 media tool Fast Company recently called 'the future of online video.' Popcorn makes it possible to pull other content and context from across the web right into the story, providing new ways for viewers to interact with video news."

If you think of Mozilla as only a "browser company," think again. You can find out more about Open Election 2012 here.