New Google phone can record, transcribe in real time

Smartphones with the Google Pixel 4 phone and Google on the screens. Photo credit: Dennis Price

Have you ever recorded someone or a class lecture and wished that audio would magically be transcribed for you? Well, that oddly specific wish is a reality, on a smartphone no less.

The phone in question is the Google Pixel 4 has a new pre-installed app that records audio and transcribes it to text in real-time. The Pixel 4 was revealed at the ‘Made by Google’ event on Oct. 15, which showed off the new phone and its feature to the public.

One of the most talked-about features is the new recording app. The app itself is a new addition to Google’s Pixel phone series, as it’s the first time a recording app will be on a Pixel phone right out of the box.

Google describes the new feature as a recorder that uses more technology than what’s currently on the audio recording market.

“The new Recorder app uses speech recognition and AI to transcribe lectures, meetings, interviews and more,” says Google representative Christina Peck.

Also, the app lets you search for keywords within a Pixel 4 recording and jump to that point in the transcript. It makes it easier to get the information quickly, instead of listening through it manually.

Also, the Recorder app doesn’t require an internet connection, so the app can still record and transcribe the audio in real-time even in airplane mode.

Transcription technology isn’t new, but the idea of putting it in a device that people use everyday is new. The question is if a machine like the Pixel 4 will be a changing force in the transcription industry.

CBC accessible transcript journalist, Luke Williams, 27, says the Pixel 4 will put transcription technology in the hands of a new audience.

“I know people who are hardcore journalists, who aren’t using transcripts in any way, shape or form now,” Williams says.

Luke Williams.jpeg
CBC accessible transcript journalist, Luke Williams. Photo credit: Courtesy of Luke Williams

He adds transcripts that have already been created for journalists who own a Pixel 4 will create more work opportunities for him than he sees right now. As an accessible journalist, he can use transcripts to make it easier for an accessible audience to get more context of the stories he helps produce at CBC.

Williams says the Pixel 4 won’t immediately make an impact on the journalism or the transcription industry because it’s too early.

It would be a different story If an organization like CBC transitions its reporters to own or be provided with a device like the Pixel 4 as a requirement for the job, Williams says.

This type of automation could create fewer opportunities in journalism as early as late 2020, Williams believes. Still, he doesn’t see this type of automation affecting journalism in a big way like other industries.

“I know a lot of people who tell me we (journalists) will never reach 100 per cent accessibility,” Williams says. “The same can be said about automation.”

The technology is not perfect, occasionally transcribing inaccurately due to auditory issues. Those issues are the Pixel 4’s most worrying aspect, but reviewer of, Adam Roffel is still impressed by the technology.

“It misses every once in a while, but for me, it’s 98 per cent accurate,” Roffel says.

Williams says that as long as the Pixel 4 or any transcription software isn’t perfect, there is still an opportunity out there for people like Williams who work with transcripts.

Until that time comes, Williams is thrilled to pick up the slack for the imperfect transcribing technology. He adds he’s interested to see the phone in the hands of early adopters, especially those who are journalists and if the journalism landscape will change or not because of the Pixel 4.

The Pixel 4 comes in three distinct colours, including ‘Just Black,’ ‘Clearly White’ and ‘Oh So Orange’ colour variants.

The phone in the Google Store costs $999 for the 64 GB Pixel 4 base model, $1,129 for the 128 GB. The Pixel 4 XL model is $1,129 for a 64 GB and $1,259 for the 128 GB.