Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Telephone Game Goes High-Tech: An Evaluation of the Google Voice Transcription Tool

Technophiles world-wide are chomping at the bit to get their very own invitation to Google Voice. I was thrilled to get my email invite on Friday and I must admit it's pretty slick.

If you don't know about Google Voice, Google gives you a FREE phone number that will ring your other phones, send you texts, deliver voice mails to your email inbox, transcribe your messages and much more. I haven't even played with all the awesomeness yet.

First, I had the challenge of acquiring my phone number. The interface gives you the opportunity to request combinations of letters and numbers. Therefore, I was left typing in as many combos of the ideal awesome phone number I could imagine. (845) JTROCKS, (845) 2CALLJT, (845) JEANTAG. I think I did this for 20 minutes. Eventually I was successful with (845) 475-84JT. Not bad. I got the "4JT" in there. I later looked over the buttons on the telephone and came up with the mnemonic (845) ISJT4JT but I'm not sure what that means or if it'll help anyone remember anything.

I found some of the advanced set-up features employed some backward logic, like setting up a schedule of when NOT to ring a certain number, instead of when TO ring the number. After burning a few brain cells, I figured out the best schedule for me. I made a few test calls and let it go to voice mail so I could check out the transcription feature. First time, it got my message 100% straight. Second time, it said "transcription failed". I don't remember exactly what I said but apparently it confounded the system.

Then, today, someone called my Google Voice number. I missed the call and it went to voice mail. I was in a meeting when I got the transcription and it was all I could do not to wet my pants.

I listened to the accompanying voice file and it wasn't even close to this! Transcription fail. This is a person who typically speaks loudly and clearly. Maybe it was a bad connection. Who knows?

This whole thing got me thinking of the telephone game. You remember the game when you'd whisper in the first kids ear "I brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch" and by the time it get so the last kid it was somehow "I thought I'd beam up a hand wrench for a bunch."

This gave me an idea! (Can't you almost see the little light bulb above my head) Let's play a High-Tech game of Telephone. I'll put my Google Voice number on "Do Not Disturb" from now until Sunday 7/26 at midnight. That way all calls will go straight to voice mail. I invite all of you to think of a really creative / complex message to leave me. Don't make it too long because there may be a character limit. Once all the calls are in, I'll screen capture the text messages (or at least the funny ones) and post them here. I'll blur the names and numbers to protect the innocent. I'd imagine, that, much like the original telephone game, the more complex words will get horribly and hilariously mangled.


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