Browser-based captioning service for events and live streams
A deaf person started attending my church. The church wanted some way to display live captions during the service. Hiring an interpreter was too costly. And speech-to-text software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking was too resource-intensive and had flaky reliability.
But enter the Web Speech API — a seemingly reliable and accurate speech-to-text engine right in the browser. It looked like it would be perfect for the job. I tweaked Google’s web speech API demonstration page a little, gave it to the church, and they were quite satisfied with using that for a while.
Slapping on some branding and starting a community
A message from the Swedish Standards Institute after using Web Captioner at a seminar
The idea really took off after I simply gave the product a logo and the name Web Captioner. It quickly became popular among churches and amateur live streamers through Facebook groups. Around this time I discovered that managing a community is just as important as the product — and almost just as much work. People love to know there’s a human behind the software. So I started a blog, Facebook group, went on an interview, wrote a Help Center, and started using community input to guide my focus in development.
Web Captioner isn’t particularly unique (the Web Speech API has been around for years), and I can’t take credit for Google’s excellent transcription logic, but the product’s focus on features that let you format text output or stream text to a popular video mixing program fill the needs of a niche market. And the price is right for churches (free).
1.5 Million Words and Beyond
Since its launch, Web Captioner has been used to transcribe over 1.5 million words. It regularly sees users from around the world. In September 2017, Web Captioner was used at a seminar at the Swedish Standards Institute focused on accessibility standards. I regularly get videos and messages from people using Web Captioner at their events.