Google Voice Transcription Service Experiment: What I Learned

A few months ago, I signed up for a free Grand Central phone number. A wonderful service where a user could receive phone calls on their personal phone without giving out their private number and manage them in various ways that would be useful for selling items on Craig’s List or for internet guys, like myself, to pull pranks and scam Nigerians. Recently, Grand Central was purchased by Google, renamed Google Voice and several features were added. One of those features was message transcription where Google would turn your caller's voice into text.

Yesterday, I put my Google Voice phone number (614-429-4365 or 614-GAY-IDOL) on and asked people to call my number and leave a message. I said I would copy and paste what Google Voice transcribed and then I would type in what I heard below the transcription so that we could all compare the two. I did not expect the flood of voice mails nor the varied, creative messages.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Google Voice does not like compressed audio or you yelling about your privates
If Google does not like what you said due to background noise or screaming or a bad connection, it will state, “Transcript not available.” Before I started receiving a call every minute, I would listen to the “Transcript not available” messages to see why they would not come through. Sometimes it was because some dude would scream, “PENIS PENIS PENIS!” A few times it would be because someone was holding up their phone to the television so that I could hear a line from Monty Python or Family Guy. Most the time it was because their phone sounded compressed, like they were using Skype or an internet phone. I could hear them fine, but if they sounded like they were calling from the bottom of a fish tank and Google didn’t like it.

2. Google likes you to say “hi” and “bye.”
The Google people are pretty smart because they assume that most phone calls start with a “hello” and end with a “bye”. Whatever logarithm or logic chart they use, it makes some very broad assumptions. I assume it would work with a lot of phone calls, but not when you are dealing with people dropping “The Prince of Bel-Air” in your message box.

Speaking of Bel-Air, you must check out the translation tanscript by Google and the audio file created by jayssite that follows immediately after. Brilliant work, jayssite.

3. Google Voice is good with numbers
If you can leave most your messages as numbers, you’ll love the accuracy!

4. Google Voice wants to save your marriage
I listened to a message that said, “Cindy, you dirty whore. I'm divorcing you.” Google felt compassion and transcribed it as: cindy and very on the work something out bye

5. Google allowed callers to sneak through
Late in the afternoon as my voice mailbox was on fire, calls started to come in on my cell phone with the number 000-000-0000. I let them go to voicemail and when I checked, the messages were the same quotes from the "The Big Lebowski" I’d been receiving all day. This was disturbing because they were going into my personal voice mail which gives my real name. Google Voice is supposed to give you an opportunity to remain anonymous so that the people from the local roofing company you pissed off on can’t track you down and flatten your tires. I sent Google a note and hope they fix that.

6. Google Voice believes in conspiracies
Message: 9-11 was an inside job. Wake up sheeple.
Transcript: nine eleven with the inside job we cox you pull

Truthers like Google Voice. “You can clearly hear Google Voice saying “pull.”

7. Google Voice doesn’t think you should swear
Message: What the fuck.
Transcript: what the phone

We think Google Voice did the TV version of “Snakes on a Plane” (via Vortex22222)
“I've had it with these monkey-phoning snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!”

8. Google Voice gets it right… rarely
I’m not going to beat Google Voice up that badly. They are in a kind of beta testing. But here was the first message it got 100% correct: hi honey

The second was:
Transcript not available.

9. Google Voice lets you post messages on line
This creepy message is interesting for two reasons: one, because it is creepy. And two, because I never though of the word “beauty” as B O T. When Google voice gets something stuck in its head, it runs with it. If it hears a letter, it listens for more. This is also to show you that Google Voice allows you to post messages on your website.

Transcript by Google: B O T as in the heart mobile to work around that
The actual message:

10. Well, here are some things that you can learn from all this:
a. I do not work for Google
b. I got over 500 voice mails
c. 50% of them were “Transcript not available.”
d. There are a lot of funny people out there
e. There are just as many crazy people
f. Most spoken word in the messages seemed to be “um.”
g. No, I do not have any gVoice invites.
h. No, I will not hurry up and post your message
i. No, I will not post your political opinion
j. Yes, I am gay (the colleague one is day)
k. The whispering people were the creepiest
l. There were some very depressing voices out there: like the girl who got deodorant for a birthday present from her boss.
m. I did not listen to all the messages. After the first 50 “Transcript not available” messages, I quit listening and just started deleting. Sorry to all of you that did not get posted.
n. Yes, Google Voice does track your phone number and logs it in the inbox.
o. No, I deleted all the messages except the one in this e-mail.
p. Thanks to and all the redditors that helped with this completely unscientific experiment.
q. Yes, I picked 614-gay-idol on purpose
r. No, I will not be using the whole alphabet

No comments: