Recently, The Spanish Academy carried out video transcribing of a live panel event in Madrid for The Economist. Following completion of the work, we began thinking about apps and whether they can replace manual transcription work – after all, we have an app for almost everything these days.

We need apps, there is no denying it

Every smart device that is released these days will have access to some kind of store selling apps. There are apps for almost every aspect of our lives and it seems as though we are unable to function without relying on an app. However, when it comes to manual transcribing, can an app make life easier and make everything more efficient?

There are apps out there that offer a transcription service but are they better than the work carried out by a person who has the ability to hear everything in real-time but also decipher what it all really means?

Apps are continuously improving

As mentioned, there are apps already available that offer a transcription service. They are available as web apps, on Apple devices and Android devices. They can record audio and then convert speech into text as it happens through the use of voice recognition algorithms. Some apps make it possible to synchronise audio and text during playback which allows the user to listen to that particular word as it was being said. These kinds of features make it possible for humans to override the work of apps as they are not capable of producing perfect transcriptions. However, they are accurate enough for you to notice those areas that require a manual touch-up before the job is complete. Developers are still on a mission for perfection when it comes to transcription apps and so, things are moving at an impressive pace.

Problems can still arise

We know that apps and computers have taken over many processes that were once carried out by humans. Many manufacturing processes are now undertaken by robots and computers and completed flawlessly. However, these processes are rather regimented as they do the same thing, day in day out. When it comes to transcription apps, they need to be extremely clever because there are so many factors that can cause errors in the transcription. There is poor sound, mispronunciation, accents and many other factors that can result in content that will require serious human input to the point where it might have been easier to write it yourself.

These apps are far from flawless but they are good nonetheless. However, if you are someone who might find yourself relying on an app, then you might be disappointed. Apps have the tendency to change dialog into numerous lines, select incorrect words and require you to have more input than you had planned.

So, are apps the answer?

This all depends on your specific needs. Apps will allow you to clean up the dialog yourself and you can slow down the audio to help but if you are looking to transcribe a full event or entire content then you are likely to be met with errors that could be frustrating. However, if you are happy to work manually and be supported by an app that can capture the basics of a conversation then an app might just be right for you.

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