The Next Best Thing in Speech to Text Apps

I love captions and look for them everywhere I go — even when they are not there. Last week at my daughter’s high school play, my eyes would involuntarily slide to the side looking for the caption screen anytime I missed some of the dialogue. The play was not captioned, but my reflex to look for the text anyway made me laugh.

So when I read about the new Google Live Transcribe app (available only on Android so far) I was eager to try it. I have tested other speech to text apps over the years, but none had really done the trick — the accuracy was typically poor and the timing was stilted. Still, these apps are sometimes better than nothing and usually good for a laugh or two when the captions really miss the mark.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

As a participant in Google’s Accessibility Trusted Tester program, I received a Google Pixel Slate to use for upcoming product assessments. It is my first Android device and allowed me to take Live Transcribe out for a test run. For the record, I was not a Trusted Tester when Live Transcribe was being developed or I would not be able to write about it. Trusted Tester activities are covered under a strict confidentiality agreement — rightly so. If you are interested in becoming a Trusted Tester, you can learn more and apply here. It is currently only available for people in the United Sates.

Live Transcribe Did Well In My Test

I tried the Live Transcribe app at a recent board meeting and I was amazed at the results. During the full day of discussions, the app was able to accurately pick up dialogue from across the crowded table. The captions appeared in real-time so it was easy to follow the conversation. It only fell down when the speaker had an accent. Surprisingly, the captions from Live Transcribe were sometimes more accurate and timely than those from the CART provider.

Live Transcribe is still in beta testing so there are a number of items that could be improved. First, the text appears in one long stream of words. It does not label different speakers or add any line breaks to indicate when a new person talks. This makes it difficult to quickly scan through the text to find the word or phrase you missed. Hopefully this feature will be added to future versions. Secondly, it is only available for Android devices, but this may change once things are perfected.

Despite its flaws, Live Transcribe is the most accurate and timely speech-to-text app I have ever used. I am eager to see how it continues to develop. The application would be life changing for people with hearing loss, providing captioning services at will, but also for those who need translation services. According to Google’s website, “Live Transcribe is available in over 70 languages and dialects. It also enables two-way conversation via a type-back keyboard for users who can’t or don’t want to speak, and connects with external microphones to improve transcription accuracy.”

To gauge the reliability of the transcription for yourself, take a closer look at the image in this blog. As an experiment, I read this post into the transcriber and this is what I got. There are some errors, and the punctuation is wrong, but the overall accuracy is quite good. It is likely to only get better.

Readers, would you try Google Live Transcribe?

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48 thoughts on “The Next Best Thing in Speech to Text Apps

  1. This is exciting and seems promising. So the phone with the app listens to the speech and transcribes, yes? Also, if it’s a Google app, does that mean it’s internet based and able to be used overseas?

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    • I wish I knew when it would arrive for iPhones! I hope soon. For me, the speech to text capability was more accurate than Ava, but give both a try and see what you think. Thanks for your question.

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      • Hi Shari,

        Thank you for the review. I’m glad you had a great experience with LiveTranscribe – and a bit disappointed you didn’t mention more about existing apps that challenge it.
        Releasing Live Transcribe without iPhone availability is a bit disappointing when building for accessibility. One should consider all platforms, not just the Android one – this war between tech giants is proprietary one…

        If you’re looking for a solution that works well now, here’s why I think Ava still does way better than Live Transcribe for accessibility
        – Ava is available on Android, iOS and Web. Get started here: http://www.ava.me/dl
        – In group conversations, the way Ava works is different from LiveTranscribe. For maximum accessibility, Ava enables you to connect to each speaker individually, and color codes you in real time who says what.
        Also, you can have a friend or coworker edit it some of the words the ASR doesn’t capture well, if there were important.
        – Transcripts are saved locally so you can review them later.

        I bet you’d be surprised by how much better the Ava technology has become over the years.
        Why wouldn’t you give it a try and report here for curious readers?

        Let us know,
        Thibault Duchemin
        Founder, Ava Accessibility

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      • Thanks for weighing in to the discussion. We have used Ava at many meetings / book club discussions over the years with much frustration. Live Transcribe worked much better for us, but others may have a different experience. Thanks for continuing your work to improve accessibility for people with hearing loss.

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      • I’ve used AVA, occasionally.

        I’ve heard mixed reviews about.

        There is a cost for it, correct?

        Could you please explain more about how it can be used, especially in group situations?

        Thanks

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  2. It is only available for Android devices.

    Bummer…I use iPhone and iPads.

    Is there any news re: when this tech will be available for iPhone/Apple products?

    I’m chomping at the bit.

    Thanks Shari.

    I’m tempted to buy that Android device that you have.

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  3. Live Transcribe sounds like it would be quite helpful in meetings with my kids’ teachers. Can each conversation be saved? That would help my fuzzy memory. On top of being single sided deaf and losing hearing rapidly in my ‘good’ ear, I was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Taking notes hurts a lot now. Just what I need, losing pencil grip! I’m glad I live in an era of new technology. Captioning phones and captioning apps are great for those of us who have severe hearing loss.

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  4. I read about Live Transcribe a couple of months ago. I was so excited! I got the app and used it several times, both for conversation and a church service. It worked well for conversation and fairly well for the church sermon. Then one day it disappeared from my phone. I went to re-install it, but it said it was currently installed. I reinstalled it, but it did not appear. Do you know if Google discontinued it?

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  5. Just stumbled on this discussion and by coincidence saw and used Ava for the first time last weekend. Want to know about other such options as well!

    One issue: Ava requires a monthly subscription! Cell phone makers should offer speech recognition as a accessibility feature at no cost to the user!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree…AVA requires a monthly prescription…although, I have been able to use it with individuals, for no cost. I haven’t used it for awhile…there are so many other transcription apps…like, iHearU2..

      I tried the Google live transcribe app on my friend’s Android phone..it’s AMAZING…so quick to respond to one’s voice.

      I won’t give up my iPhone…maybe will get an Android tablet…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have VOICE TO TEXT PRO for iPhone. It works fairly well but I suspect it does not perform well in groups. If I’m just a little careful I can dict ate whole pages without a mistake.You can send a message, mail and other things. You can save it as a file or just delete it. I haven’t had it long enough to recommend it – just giving a heads up. Check it out

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  7. Your article is very timely, Shari, because just last Sunday my hearing loss book group tried this out and we were all impressed. One of the members is completing her NCHAT training with HLAA and she brought it and showed it to us. She also brought a small projector so she could project our conversation on the wall. This seems very promising. I hope it will be available for Apple products eventually.

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  8. I have just started using Live transcribe- I have it on my phone and tablet. It worked wonders transcribing the sermon in church on Sunday. I have a meeting tomorrow at school so will try it there. This is the best app I have used for speech to text. As we are android users, I was a happy camper as most apps seem to be for iphone. I also used it for a small book group with excellent results.

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  9. This is very exciting technology. I hesitate to use the phrase life-changing, but it really would change my life for the better. Also, thank you for the link to sign up to be a Google tester. I just finished the questionnaire and hope they pick me.

    Jon

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  10. I have been using the app for over a month now and it is a life changer for me. I am a late deafened adult and the accuracy of the app is amazing. I have been able to use it in social settings and it has done a good job transcribing the speech of those closest to me. It allows me to attend meetings at work again. I can have length conversations with family and friends without my brain giving up trying to read lips for that length of time. It works in the car even at interstate highway speeds in a noisy Corolla (I am not driving of course). I would have switched to an Android phone in order to use it (can’t do the microscopic screened remotely affordable iPhones).

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  11. Shari,

    I have a NOOK tablet…which, I believe, is Android tech…correct? I looked in the Google play store and did not see the exact title…”Live Transcribe” as an app option. I see other transcription apps, but not, “Live Transcribe”…Any idea why this is? Thanks

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  12. Shari,
    Thanks so much for this article on Live Transcribe. I did not know about speech to text apps. I have an iPhone. Which do you recommend?

    My husband also has hearing loss and has an android. What would you recommend for him until he can use Live Transcribe?

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  13. How far away from speaker and phone before LiveTranscribe could not detect sound to do its work?
    Ava needs everyone download app and hold phone near mouth.
    So how LiveTranscribe works with group meeting that everyone is not sit closely together?

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    • For me it worked at a board meeting that had about 15 people around a table. It probably varies from room to room, but definitely worth trying out the technology. Good luck to you!

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      • thank you Shari:

        Do you just put your phone at the center of table,
        or
        hand it to the next person to hold near his/her mouth while speaking?

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      • I kept it in front of me the whole time. People spoke into microphones, but they were not related to the device. They were mics for the room generally. Hope that helps.

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  14. HI, Shari:
    I am sorry if I keep digging but I try to make it work because I do have a lot of small group meetings and find it difficulty.
    Would you please give more information on the microphones? Are they multiple lapel microphones that everyone clip on their cloth, or just one sits on table? Where I can purchase them?
    For small, less than 10 people meeting, are those microphone volume too high for normal hearing people?
    Thanks

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    • Hi Linda. The microphone was just the one in the conference room. They did not clip onto anything. I’m sorry I don’t have more details. Maybe give it a try just in the center of the table and see how it goes. Best of luck to you.

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