Google’s Web-based phone service sends voicemail transcripts to your inbox. Whether they make any sense is another matter entirely.
Robert Strohmeyer, PC World
I’ve been using Google Voice for a few years now, since the days before Google bought the service and it went by the name Grand Central. One of the service’s best features is its ability to transcribe voice messages and send them to your inbox, making it easy to keep up with incoming calls without disrupting what you’re doing at any given moment. If those transcripts actually made sense most of the time, the service would be phenomenally useful.
Google VoiceUnfortunately, making heads or tails of Google Voice transcripts often requires a lot of guesswork, since the text I receive frequently bears little resemblance to the original message the caller left. In most cases I can at least see who called and get a vague sense of what they wanted. But at least a third of the transcripts I get are so riddled with errors that even the caller’s identity is a mystery.
Here are a few examples of Google’s handiwork. See if you can guess what the caller is saying, and then click the audio stream below the transcript to hear the actual message.
Google Voice Transcript
This first message is a pretty typical mix of accurate transcription combined with utter nonsense. Sure, I understand that I’m being invited to a barbecue, but I have no idea what “God for something like that” is supposed to mean, much less “Lots of there and like a giant bolt lock only style.” Without listening to the voice recording, I’d be hard-pressed to respond appropriately to this message.
Fortunately, Google uses different shades of gray to indicate its confidence in the transcription. As a general rule, the more gray you see, the less sure you should be of the content. Of course, when the text is basically gibberish, that’s a pretty good indicator too.
When the caller mumbles at all, the challenge is even greater, as in the case below.