Mozilla & Knight Foundation Invest $1M In Crowdsourced Translation Startup Amara

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Let’s say you’re a video publisher who wants all the world to have access to your content… But translating videos into multiple languages is time-consuming and expensive — that is, unless you’ve got a team of volunteers to do it for you. One of the most efficient way to tackle the problem is by crowdsourcing subtitles, which is why translation startup Amara has raised $1 million from Mozilla and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Amara, previously known as Universal Subtitles, was created as an open-source platform to allow anyone to crowdsource transcriptions and translations of video content. Its technology has been used by volunteers to translate and create subtitles for more than 170,000 videos, including President Barack Obama’s message to Sudan and the KONY 2012 video, which was available in more than 35 languages in four days.

With the funding, the Amara team will be releasing an enterprise version of the platform, which its customers can use within their own organizations — whether it be to collaborate on subtitle creations in-house, or to open up translation to outside volunteers. And with flexible APIs, the system is designed to work with publishers’ existing content management systems and publishing workflows, according to Amara co-founder and executive director Nicholas Reville.

Amara is already working with some major publishers — including news organizations like PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera, as well as educational video providers such as Khan Academy — to make their content more accessible to a broader audience.

While Amara is focused on making content accessible to viewers around the world, there are other benefits to having subtitles for online videos: Doing so can improve SEO, and it makes them available to those who are hard of hearing as well. That’s important particularly as Congress passed a law last year requiring publishers to have subtitles on videos that appear online. All of which is why Amara believes it’s in a nice spot, as publishers will soon need tools to provide those subtitles.

Amara, which was formed as part of an open source project within the Participatory Culture Foundation. It now has a team of about 20 working at the startup, which it expects to roll out to at least 10 more customers over the coming months.