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September 25, 2020 Transcription Services

Transcript By Humans or AI Transcription: The What, The Why and The When.

Inside scoop from insiders

FFTranscription is all-human transcripts in 24-48 hours, with practically perfect accuracy. Sounds great? It is! Still, we know that budgets, speed and many other factors go into the transcripts decision.  As a human transcription firm for the past 17 years, we have made it a point to evaluate any new technology that might make our jobs easier…or obsolete.  In 2003, when we started, the moderator often used a tape recorder, and the focus group facility shipped the tapes to our firm. Seven day turnaround was fast! When transferring audio files via email or the internet became possible, we led the change, and we encouraged our clients to do the same.  Today, the conversation is AI.

WHAT is AI and Human?

AI is when a computer types the sound from what it hears. Words are merely processed as phonetic sounds, and placed together with little or no nuance of understanding or context. Many factors play into how well this happens. Human transcripts are completed by a person, and the gold standard is to have your transcript done in the country of origin. For example, a native US speaker for US projects.

Some firms, like FFTranscription, have the file checked three times to achieve the highest level of accuracy: first by the transcriber, second by a proofreader and third by your project manager. Whereas AI typically is self-service and self-correct, FFTranscription comes with white glove service – you have a dedicated project manager making sure you have all your perfect files.

WHY AI or Human?

Cost & Speed. AI is free or practically free. The tradeoff is accuracy. For a one-speaker, very clear file with no background noise and simple terms, it might be a small sacrifice in accuracy. For a focus group, the reduction in precision is much greater, and if there are medical terms, can be very impactful. The more speakers, the more noise, the presence of accents, cross talk or challenging terms, even speech muffled by someone wearing a mask – the less accurate the file will be.

Our firm periodically evaluates AI-translator tools to stay aware of developments in this area. While we have observed improvement in AI technology, we have found that it is still very limited and does not deliver good results for the kind of work we do, where there is often great diversity in recording environments, speaking styles, number of speakers, and topics. Even with state of the art AI tools and recording technology, we believe that fully human transcription is still both the best and easiest way to achieve the highest level of accuracy and readability in our transcripts. The cost, though, is much higher than AI, taking into consideration the human worker, the proofreader and your project manager are all working to ensure your professional service is flawless.

WHEN to choose AI vs. Human

There was a time when there was only one choice – do you want a transcript or not? Now, you have options to choose low cost or free AI files, or choose traditional transcripts in 24-48 hours.  If accuracy is just not important, and there are times that it is not, you might select AI. Such as, if the transcript for your project is for your internal use only and the client will not see the transcript, or if you have really short files and are content to spend your own sweat equity to correct them. Keep in mind that typing one minute of sound takes 3 to 4 human minutes! If you have no budget but just need something – maybe AI is right for you. For busy professionals who need quality speech to text solutions delivered to them, human transcription is the smart choice, since the increased cost is offset by allowing the researcher to use their time and billable hours for real insights.

We do have one cautionary tale: short cuts don’t work. Trust us, we’ve tried them all, and we will never stop trying to find solutions that bring value to our clients. Simply put, trying to utilize AI and correct the file is not worth it.  AI transcription is often littered with incorrect punctuation, missing capitalization, misattributed speech, and errors with no reference to context. It also has a tendency to miss utterances, but at the same time, it captures accidental repetitions that can clutter a transcript. In most cases, correcting a first draft produced by AI can be as time-consuming as personally transcribing from the start.

Since 2003, FFTranscription has been handling the transcription needs of thousands of businesses across the United States. With over 25 million minutes successfully transcribed for our happy clients, you too can reap the benefits of using transcription services.  Contact us today and let us worry about the details so you can Focus Forward!