The Google Voice team has enhanced its automatic voicemail transcription feature to recognize natural pauses in speaking by putting periods at the end of spoken sentences.
Voicemail transcription is a balky feature in Voice that lets users peruse a transcript of a new voicemail sent via e-mail or SMS.
The feature is valuable to people who prefer to read their voice messages instead of listen to them. Reading them is also faster, helping time-strapped users prioritize which voicemails they should listen to first.
Yet the feature is far from perfect; transcriptions often yield unintended, humorous results. Think of it as a game of telephone between people who just learned a new language; one speaker isn't going to get every word the other speaker is whispering to him right. The results end of being pretty funny.
Check out these Voice transcription tests results from the New York Times, from late June. Note how there are no periods in the Times' transcriptions. Google's Web page on the feature shows us the same:
The Google Voice team itself is open about how nascent the technology is:
"This is the only fully automated voicemail transcription on the market. This means, however, that it's not perfect yet. It will improve over time as our transcription engine gets smarter. The quality of the transcripts will vary depending on the caller, the background noise, and whether the caller is using a microphone."
Google Voice Product Manager Vincent Paquet said Voice will put periods at the end of sentences, but not question marks.
Don't expect it to insert question marks for your callers' questions, but it should help make your message transcripts easier to read by breaking them into sentences separated by periods.
Adding period recognition can help remove some of those run-on sentences from the equation, reducing the silliness quotient.
It's good to say innovation is still moving forward for Voice even as the Apple-Google Voice rejection imbroglio simmers in the background.
Google, Apple and AT&T have until Aug. 21 to answer the FCC's questions about the affair.
You can tell it's summer and news is slower, which is why I am actually counting down the days to learn the answers the three vendors will have for the FCC's pointed questions.