An Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman launched on Wednesday afternoon, driving a 3.4-tonne Cygnus probe into the International Space Station. The launch of Wallops Island, Virginia, went smoothly and the spacecraft arrived at the station on Friday.
However, when the NASA International Space Station program released the launch video on its Facebook page on Thursday, there was a problem. Apparently, the agency's subtitling service had not yet come to this video clip, so viewers with activated subtitles were not just famed for launching a rocket, but the fame of Facebook automatically generated crazy words. By Thursday morning, 86,995 people watched the Facebook video.
Some of the captions are just amazingly funny. For example, if the announcer triumphantly declares: "And we have lifted the Antares NG-11 mission to the ISS," says the automatically generated subtitle service, "and we've brought the guitarist's G-11 mission to the ice sets."
Well, you can see that 19459045 gives a lot of jargon in this single statement when taking off. Finally, the announcer uses the relatively unknown missile name "Antares" along with the abbreviation "NG-11" for the 11th Northrop Grumman service mission for the station and "ISS" for the International Space Station. However, YouTube's Auto Caption service did not seem to have a problem with these space objects.
There's also more mutilated phrases in the 1-minute and 20-second clip on the NASA Facebook page, which some commentators have definitely noticed. Scott McKee advises other viewers more helpful: "Play without sound and we have the launch of the mission Guitar11 G11 Rock on NASA!"
We certainly believe subtitles in videos are very useful things. Some people prefer simply written text – but most importantly, captions improve accessibility for the deaf or the deaf. But if captions are so bad, they are essentially worthless (or, worse, they make fun of a serious scientific effort).
As Facebook strives to spend its own Alexa rival in the AI language assistant market, the company should start improving its lousy auto-caption bots.
Image of NASA