Google Voice Now Crowdsourcing Voicemail Transcription

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-11 Print this article Print

Nonsensical, inane and silly sentences are a running joke with the voicemail transcription service in Google Voice, the company's service for letting users ring their home, work and mobile numbers through one number.

To provide voicemail transcriptions, the Google Voice team uses the company's complex, but young speech recognition algorithms to divine what users are saying and render the spoken words in text.

Users may then read their messages as if they were e-mail instead of listening to them. Ideally, this could save users time, or let them access their messages on their phones or laptops when they cannot listen to them, such as when they are in business meetings.

Voicemail transcription is fantastic in theory, but underwhelming in practice. Transcription quality is often dinged by background noise, caller accent, connection quality and other variables.

Google has previously let users check a box next to transcribed voicemail messages to let the company know if the quality of the transcript was good enough to be useful.

Today, Google has taken this crowdsourcing approach to improving message transcription up a notch by asking users to donate their voicemail messages. Google Voice Product Manager Vincent Paquet explained:

You can now go one step further by letting us figure out why it was good or bad. When you rate a transcript, you will be asked whether you would like to donate the message. You have three options:


Paquet assures that donated voicemails will be listened to and manually transcribed by Google to check transcription improvements, but they won't be made public or used for any other purpose.

Again, voicemail transcription has been something of a joke for Google Voice. Paquet himself said he sometimes hears his first name as "ten cent," as the speech recognition software struggles to recognize Vincent. So this is a nice idea.

But I'm sure users are much more curious about how Paquet and his team are bolting the Gizmo5 softphone technology into Google Voice to enable it to connect endpoints, and even more curious about how this might work in a Google Phone in 2010. |

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