What is Google Live Transcribe? This is a free application (an app) that automatically transcribes speech into text in near real time. You use your android phone or tablet to use it and you can download it from the play store. The backstory Google released Live Transcribe in February 2019. Google worked in close collaboration with Gallaudet University (known for hearing impairment research) to develop the app specifically for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It has been downloaded over 5 million times since then. The technical bit – how does it work? The app uses machine learning algorithms to turn audio into text. Google Live Transcribe uses Google Cloud Speech API. It works for over 70 languages and can switch between languages in the course of a single conversation! Do I need a special account? No, once downloaded, you can begin using it immediately though I would advise you downloading it in advance of needing it so you can have a practice and get the settings exactly as you would like them. What about security? The transcript is saved (for 3 days) to your device rather than the Cloud, though you can ask it not to save if you would prefer. You can’t edit the transcript and it doesn’t record the audio. What was it like in different environments? This app works amazingly well for a conversation between two people in a quiet environment. I tested this app in a range of environments – from a noisy coffee shop (where it did miss a few words) to a very quiet meeting room (where it was almost word perfect). I tested it using the microphone on my phone (this would be the default for most people – it would just happen automatically) and then I tried using an external microphone. The normal microphone on my middle-of-the-range android phone was perfectly adequate for a conversation between two people with my phone on the table in front of me. In a meeting environment, with more people and in a bigger room, an external microphone on a long cable plugged into my phone (and passed around the room) worked really well. I picked this external microphone up for under £7.00 on eBay and it folds up small enough to go into my bag! 6 Would you use it in day to day life? Yes, absolutely. As someone who would usually particularly have difficulty in an environment like a coffee shop, this app will be incredibly useful for me. Any drawbacks? Yes, I wouldn’t try and use it in a room where everyone is speaking at once as you wouldn’t be able to tell from the screen who has said what. Any other information? I really like how you can customise the app – you can change the size and contrast of the text that you want to see which was useful. In one of the activities I went to, we connected my phone to the smart TV in the room (we casted it) to then put the transcript onto the screen so more than one person could follow it (we used the external microphone in this environment, plugged into my phone in the middle of the room). You can also ask it to detect background noise and put this into text e.g. *dog barking*, which did add a certain amount of fun to the conversations I had. One thing that I did try (which Google by no means recommend it for I’m sure!) is using Google Live Transcribe to transcribe what someone on the phone is saying. It was fiddly but it worked and I will certainly use this again. The way I did this was I asked someone to call my mobile phone, I answered the call and put it on speakerphone, then I minimised the call (but kept it open) and opened the Live Transcribe app. Then I said “start talking” to my caller and off we went! It meant I had to hold the phone in front of my face so I could read the transcription which did mean that anyone walking past would have been able to hear my call but for non-private calls I will use it again.
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