Voice-to-Text Messaging, A Slowly Rising Market

January 17th, 2007 at 12:00 am

When SpinVox commercially launched its voicemail-to-text messaging service In 2004, some industry experts predicted that the next big thing that will hit the mobile phone industry is voice-to-text systems. There were some skeptics since voice recognition technology is very difficult to develop. There are a lot factors to consider like voice and accent as well as a number of limitations one of which is the high costs needed to develop the technology. This is why voice recognition systems have only been used in a few specialized situations.

However, looking in retrospect it seems that the voice-to-text industry is slowly growing. In just three years after SpinVox introduced the world’s very first voice-to-text service, the market is picking up. It may not be a huge, instantaneous success but its presence in the whole telecommunications industry can surely be felt.

Aside from SpinVox, three other players in the voice-to-text market are worthy of mention, they are SimulScribe, DictaBrain and Jott. These companies offer the same basic services: converting voice messages into texts which are then sent to either the user’s mobile phones, their emails, or to their blogs.

DictaBrain was a venture founded by James Wood formerly of Tucows while Jott was co-founded by former Microsoft executive John Pollard. Why is it that most of the time when a great idea comes to you, you are quite indisposed to write them down. It’s either you’re stuck in traffic, in the middle of nowhere, or in an important client call. This is why these kinds of voice-to-text messages come in handy.

SimulScribe began at the same year SpinVox did. What SimulScribe do is manage existing voicemail creating it into text messages which are sent to mobile phones, Blackberry, Goodlink enabled phones and/or to an email account. An online user interface makes it easy to search, sort, archive and delete messages.

On the other hand, DictaBrain specifically targets people who are always on the go. DictaBrain also provide rapid voice to text transcriptions like SpinVox but unlike the latter, where text messages are sent to mobile phones directly, DictaBrain concentrates on transcribing voice messages and posting them as email reminders or directly into the subscriber’s blog. DictaBrain offers a free trial account where you can try out their services. Account holders just need to call a specified number with a predefined setting.

Once he enters the required PIN, he can talk all he wants. The voice is then converted into a text format which can be posted on the web or emailed. Quite similar to the previous two is Jott. It has the same function, gathering the voice and transcribing the message into text formats which could be sent out to emails, as SMS, or as text. Subscribing to Jott is still free, however. Interestingly, Jott CEO and co-founder John Pollard said in a couple of interviews and Internet queries that Jott uses a combination of human and machine technologies.

The existence of the human factor is needed to assist machines in deciphering voice messages that are normally burdened with outside noises like, accents, zero grammatical context and the common low bandwidth cellular phone connection. According to Pollard, they at Jott are working overtime to make their services 100% functional. At present Jott transcriptions are limited to a maximum of 30 seconds per voice message. Very limited indeed.

However, with Jott the recipient of the message can choose to either read the text or listen to the original voice message.Meanwhile, SpinVox have a patented technology behind their voice-recognition services. They offer five packages with prices dependent on the number of conversations permitted per month. The cheapest package costs £3.00 but can only send a maximum of 10 conversations a month.

The most expensive package is £27.99 which allows the subscriber to send up to 200 conversations per month. SpinVox has recently entered the U.S. Market. During the first years of operations, the company’s services were concentrated in the U.K. But with an estimated of 250 million cell phone users in the US it is quite unthinkable that SpinVox, or any company for that mater, will not try and get a piece of such a very juicy market.