Google Voice may be a solid way to be contactable across multiple phones, but woe-betide if you miss a call, with voicemail transcription that has so far tended toward the embarrassingly inept. Thankfully Google is aiming to change all that, with a new project aimed at improving accuracy via anonymous crowdsourcing.
The Voice team will use real voicemail recordings to analyze content and try to improve the recognition algorithms involved, hopefully making for more useful voice-to-text versions that can be delivered via email and the Google Voice apps.
As you'd hope, participation in the project will be opt-in and entirely voluntary. The recipients and senders of the messages will be kept anonymous, and there'll be the option to backtrack and subsequently opt-out of taking part.
Messages themselves will only be analyzed by automated systems, Google's Alex Wiesen says, rather than humans hearing them.
The news is not only positive because it promises improvements in transcription in future, but because it indicates some lingering degree of interest in Voice by Google altogether. Although the service has its faults, it's much-loved by a large percentage of its users, many of whom rely on it as their sole contact number.
Apparent apathy on Google's part toward Voice over the past 12-18 months, however, has left some worried that the search company would retire the service altogether.
Getting voice-to-text correct from voicemails and without human involvement is no easy matter. SpinVox, a UK company which had claimed incredible accuracy in its transcription system, was found to be increasingly using human listeners in a 2009 investigation, and the company - a division of Nuance - later shut down.