Although courses offered by Udacity enjoy broad — and growing — appeal, in at least one way their reach is significantly restricted. Until now, almost all course materials, including text files, image files and videos, were in English, a popular but far from universally used language. Now, thanks to a deal with the translation platform Amara, that barrier is about to disappear. Under the newly concluded agreement, Amara has agreed to undertake translating and subtitling of nearly 5,000 videos to make them accessible to people speaking almost every language under the sun.
Amara’s CEO Nicholas Reville said that video already serves as a universal medium by delivering lesson content to every part of the world. Now the Amara/Udacity partnership one of the few remaining barriers is about to be overcome. Reville also points out that Amara’s expertise is vital to Udacity’s goal of universal access because videos don’t submit to translation as readily as text documents.
As noted in my previous Forbes post on its translation platform, Amara’s radically new crowd-sourced approach to subtitling– a ‘Wikipedia for subtitles’ — allows videomakers to break down social, political and cultural barriers to reach a vastly wider global audience.
Since its launch in 2010, Amara’s 68,000 users have translated and subtitled more than 200,000 internet videos in a bewildering array of over 100 languages. It was Amara’s community that was responsible for bringing the popular KONY 2012 advocacy video to users in over 30 languages in less than 2 days. By utilizing the company’s services, Udacity is following the lead of such tech pioneers as TED, which uses Amara to translate each of its talks into more than 40 languages, a task accomplished with the aid of over 11,000 translators working on volunteer basis.
“We believe education is a basic human right,” said Sebastian Thrun, CEO/Co-Founder of Udacity, in the Amara release. “We have a passionate and growing international student community. We hope that by engaging our users with Amara’s platform, we can make our content more accessible by adapting to our international population’s languages. That is ultimately the core purpose of Udacity. We want to democratize education by broadening access.”
This is the second bit of good news for Thrun’s company in the last two weeks. Late last month, Udacity announced that its latest round of fundraising, led by Andreessen Horowitz, raised an additional $15 million in capital to bring the total amount of investment in the company to $21 million.