Speech-to-text tools are an indispensable component of a modern creator’s toolkit. Transcriptions help video and podcast creators make their content accessible and provide search engine optimization (SEO) value.
Accessibility lawsuits cost companies US$6.9 billion on average in 2019. But it’s not just about protecting cash. Converting speech to text for a podcast, for instance, and adding text to an episode’s notes can also help search engines crawl through the content.
How Do Speech-to-Text Software Work?
A speech-to-text software listens to audio and outputs a verbatim transcript. But what happens behind the scenes?
The software relies on voice recognition, a program that reads auditory signals using linguistic algorithms. It then converts the signals into text using Unicode characters.
That is a broad overview of what a speech-to-text software does. But let’s get some more context on how things go down when you hand over an audio file to the software.
Speech generates vibrations. The software picks up on these vibrations and translates them into a language that software and computers understand through an analog converter. Essentially, the converter analyzes the sound waves in the audio file and screens them to identify sounds.
These sounds are then broken down into milliseconds so they can be matched with a database of phonemes. A phoneme represents one unit of a perceptually distinct sound in a certain language. A mathematical model then compares the phonemes with words, phrases, or sentences.
That’s when the user sees the text output. All this happens within seconds. Cool, huh?
Even though speech recognition has come a long way, however, it’s not 100% correct.
Speech-to-Text Software Correctness versus Accuracy, What’s the Difference?
Saying that the transcription a speech-to-text tool delivers is correct has a different meaning than saying it’s accurate.
Correctness implies that the transcription is entirely error-free, while accuracy conveys that the transcription is sufficiently correct to deliver the message coherently.
Developers of speech-to-text tools focus on accuracy rather than correctness. The reason? The sheer variance in how people speak. Even within the same country, one language has several dialects. Speech-to-text tools often can’t pick up on these variations. A speaker’s pace of speech, variation in volume as they talk, and sometimes the contractions they use can be tricky for the software to pick up.
The good thing is, modern software can pick up on these variations over time. They use machine learning (ML), which helps them learn users’ speech patterns with time. That is why it’s important to use the best speech-to-text tools available to get accurate transcriptions.
What Are the Types of Speech-to-Text Software?
The Internet is home to some nifty tools that can convert speech to text in a jiffy. There’s a sea of tools out there, but not all are worth the time. It’s important to choose a modern speech-to-text tool that uses cutting-edge tech to produce accurate transcriptions.
An automatic transcription software is your best bet, but it’s not the only option. Let’s talk about speech-to-text options you have available today.
1. Automatic transcription software
Using tech to do almost anything in the 21st century offers efficiency. Likewise, using technology for transcription offers a ton of benefits, though saving time is the most critical. For instance, when you convert audio to text, you’ll have the option to transcribe it to more than 120 languages.
The good thing about software is that it provides end-to-end services. It removes the need to proofread the transcribed content. It makes the entire process faster and more efficient so creators can focus on other qualitative, value-adding aspects.
Efficiency is even more important for video creators. Editing videos can take forever, and anything that shortens the workflow is gold for creators.
For instance, when you create voice over video with a ton of background music, accurate transcriptions are more of a must-have than a nice-to-have.
2. Amazon Transcribe
There’s much to like about this speech-to-text service from the e-commerce giant. It’s a cloud-based platform dedicated only to transcriptions, which means it’s got all the bells and whistles that a creator would want in a transcription service.
The tool’s transcription accuracy is commendable, even for low-quality audio. The transcription service is fairly thorough, too. The final document is ready-to-use along with punctuations and formatting all taken care of.
3. Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is a go-to text editor for many, but not everyone knows about the powerful features tucked away in its submenus. Though it’s a text editor, Word also has speech-to-text and transcription features.
The catch? The feature is accessible only with an Office 365 subscription.
Both the speech-to-text and transcription features are pleasingly accurate. You can record conversations directly into a Word document so they can be transcribed automatically. Word is a wonderful option for those who don’t want to invest in a separate speech-to-text software. It allows collaborating with others on the transcribed document, which is helpful for creators that have a team, with each member assigned a different role.
For instance, the person assigned the task of uploading the final video or podcast will need the transcriptions to get their job done. Instead of having to email them the transcript, they can just be permitted to access the document and voilà—you’ve saved a few minutes in completing your workflow.
How Can Speech-to-Text Software Become More Accurate?
When relying on speech-to-text tools for transcription, it’s important to feed good-quality inputs to ensure accuracy.
Think about it. When the software tries to understand an audio file and there’s a washing machine running in the background, it’s going to have trouble hearing the human voice.
To ensure accuracy, make sure the environment is free from the following issues:
- Background noise: This is one of the most common problems that reduces transcription accuracy. Sounds from the road or even a noisy fan somewhere close to the mic can be terrible for transcription accuracy.
- Speaking together: When two or more people speak at once while recording, it’s going to confuse the software. Heck, even humans might find it difficult to decipher what’s being said.
- Low voice: This is what causes the worst transcription accuracy. Both the disturbance in the microphone or setting the recording volume too low can cause low volume and make it impossible for the software to transcribe anything.
Having the correct equipment goes a long way in ensuring that the speech fed to the software is distraction-free. Now, the audio recording rig doesn’t need to be worth several grand. But the better the equipment, the better the accuracy.
For instance, it’s best to use a directional mic. Inexpensive directional mics can record far better audio than expensive omnidirectional ones.
A lot of cams and phones, of course, have mics, too. They’re readily available and don’t require you to pull your wallet out. But they are not directional mics. For interviews, consider a lavalier or condenser mic if the recording room has pin-drop silence.
Plus, it’s also helpful to monitor the audio as it’s being recorded. For this, you’ll need headphones. In most cases, recording equipment houses a headphone jack to allow for fine-tuning. When necessary, the mic’s placement should be adjusted so the audio is clean.
There’s no longer a need for manual transcription, spending hours on a few minutes of audio. A ton of tools, some of which you might already use, allow speech-to-text conversion. Of course, premium software offers superior accuracy and speed, but free options do exist.
For those who aren’t ready to commit, a lot of those speech-to-text tools also offer trials. Trials allow gauging the appropriateness of the software for your use and help you feel more confident about putting money into a new tool.
There are several benefits of converting speech to text, but SEO remains top-of-mind because it allows search engines to crawl through content that would have otherwise been missed.
In some cases, transcriptions or subtitles are a legal requirement. Transcriptions make content more accessible, and companies have landed in trouble for not adhering to accessibility laws in the past. So, transcriptions don’t only save money you might spend on expensive lawsuits, but also generate SEO value and help your business grow.