As the pandemic stretches out before us with a long winter ahead, it’s clear that work-from-home will remain the status quo for millions. So any advances to make our video chat hell a little easier to navigate are welcome. With that in mind, Zoom is adding the option to integrate Otter.ai’s live caption system with video calls.
Otter.ai has been building a reputation for machine learning-enabled live transcription for a couple of years and back in April, it announced a partnership with Zoom to provide transcripts of video meetings. Now it’s taking things further with the addition of live captioning. Users will be able to see an imperfect transcription of what a speaker is saying nearly in real-time.
Unfortunately, this is still more of a feature designed for enterprise customers. You’ll need to be an Otter for Business or Zoom Pro customer to use it. While the pandemic has brought a ton of new users and attention to Zoom, it’s still a relatively young company that’s catching up with others in many respects. Google Meet and Microsoft Teams already offer live captions for meetings.
The most obvious use for live captions is for the purpose of accessibility. Even with a meeting transcript delivered after the fact, hearing-impaired users could be left out of important details in real-time. But pretty much everyone could benefit from subtitles in meetings. The feature can keep you focused or ensure that you don’t mishear an important statistic.
ZDNet did a test run with the feature and reported that “some sentences don’t make sense and words occasionally come up deformed” but, for the most part, it gets the job done. And live transcription will only improve with more use. We may not have self-driving cars or jetpacks by the time the pandemic is over, but surely we’ll have generated enough data in that time to nail down this transcription thing.