Over the years I’ve used various combinations of voice recording and note taking apps to quickly capture a conversation and convert it into an article. For years I stuck with iPad app Notability and particularly liked the way the app would timestamp whatever I scribbled to the audio recording, allowing me to easily find a moment of audio by scanning over my notes. Later versions of Microsoft’s OneNote can perform the same trick.
But as voice assistants became better, I felt it was time to try an artificial intelligence transcription service. A friendly rival journalist suggested Trint, so I used the service for a few months, and around twenty interviews. Trint’s transcripts look similar to a Google Doc, with the current word playing back highlighted. You can jump in at any moment in the transcription and hit play, and follow along from there. Trint is inexpensive, and can be purchased on a monthly plan or as prepay for a few hours of uploads.
Otter offers a very generous free version of its transcription service.
But Trint had a few too many failings. The mobile app was terrible, both in usability and reliability. After a few failed recordings I stopped trusting the app and would instead use the built in voice recorder on my phone and import later. Half the time, these recordings wouldn’t appear in the app for days, for no reason at all, even when they were available on the web. But most annoying, while Trint had better than expected accuracy transcribing American voices, it had no idea what I was saying most of the time.
After trying Trint’s main competitors, I settled with Otter. Otter’s web interface is clean and friendly, and splits the conversation between speakers. The software is good, not great, at separating voices, so if you mark a chunk of text as yourself it’s easy to see where you were speaking. My favourite feature shows the main keywords at the top of the page, so you can click the word “budget” and find every time it was said, or simply glance at the keywords as a refresher on the conversation.
Otter’s mobile app is reliable; after a full year of use, I’m yet to lose a recording. The recorder begins transcribing in real time, and it’s easy to share the audio, the transcript, or both to other apps on your phone, or to friends and editors.
Most importantly, Otter is just as reliable with a thick Australian drawl as it is with a Southern California accent. Don’t get me wrong, every conversation Otter records is full of little errors, as you would expect from AI, but the transcripts are readable, and mistakes easy to spot and edit.
Otter is free for up to 10 hours of recordings a month — a plan that is generous enough to make me a little nervous — but the company promises it doesn’t scan your audio or sell your data to advertisers, instead the company hopes to emulate Dropbox and Slack’s freemium model.
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