Is Android’s Live Transcribe the Real Deal?

Since its launch earlier this year, Android’s Live Transcribe has been feted as a revolution in the world of shared communication. Primarily, its advantages have been for the deaf and hard of hearing, but the solution is also beneficial to a wide cross-section of other users.

Conversation in real time

Live Transcribe works by using Google speech recognition technology to provide a live transcript of a conversation, giving you instant captions on your smartphone.

It’s easy to see why this is a godsend to the deaf and hard of hearing, allowing them to follow conversations as they unfold, as well as to anyone wanting to simply follow a conversation in text.

But how will Live Transcribe impact the world of business? Will it make some services, such as transcription, redundant? Let’s take a look at the implications of this groundbreaking phenomenon.

What is Live Transcribe and why is it so useful?

Live Transcribe was initially developed for users of Android phones, with input from experts based at Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing to ensure it was fit for their purposes.

As described above, as you engage in conversation, the transcript pops up on your smartphone, making it super easy to follow the flow.

There’s even an indicator to show the level of background noise, so you know when to move the microphone nearer to the speaker, or to move to the conversation to a quieter location.

You can use a keyboard to type your part in the conversation if desired, and there’s even a feature that vibrates your phone if someone speaks after an episode of silence so you know to look at the text.

Sound events, such as a dog barking or doorbell sounding, can also be captured.

It’s easy to see why the app enriches everyday interactions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and it also works well in many other scenarios.

With over 70 languages and dialects available, the solution makes following conversations in languages other than English, and even bilingual conversations, easy.

Clearly this is great news for travelers or language students, as reading captions is generally easier than trying to follow spoken language.

The technology behind Live Transcribe is smart and intuitive, with varying text size and captions auto-correcting as conversations evolve, and conversations can be stored for three days on users’ phones, so there are no worries regarding personal data being stored on servers. What’s more, the app is free to download and accessible for everyone.

What’s not to like?

The hidden threat to the world of business…?

With this impressive array of features, it’s clear that Live Transcribe goes beyond empowering the deaf and hard of hearing.

The solution has a part to play in the worlds of study and work, with students taking notes from lectures and professionals such as journalists transcribing interviews finding it invaluable. Just providing the simple ability to dictate emails or reports while you’re on the go is an advantage for many.

But what does this mean for providers of supporting services such as transcribers, executive assistants and personal assistants? Or even call center workers? Will their roles be overtaken by AI?

It seems that there is still some way to go before business is taken over by automation. While voice recognition technology is advanced, it’s not perfect. Transcription only works well when a phone is close enough to the speaker, and this isn’t always possible in a meeting of several people or at a conference.

And when people speak too quickly, mumble or pause too frequently, the resulting transcription is going to be hit and miss.

Google has already recognized that transcription alone is not reliable, and are working on solutions to combine it with other tools such as speaker separation, speech enhancement and a loudness indicator.

While Live Transcribe has certainly opened up a world of possibilities for the deaf, hard of hearing and, in fact, anyone who seeks quick understanding of conversations, workers that are already providing these services can breathe a sigh of relief…for now at least.


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