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Built With AI, Live Transcription Services Come To Videoconferencing Software

3 min read
Mar 25, 2021
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“Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. Even Microsoft knows.

Microsoft has announced that their live transcription feature is rolling out to Microsoft Teams in English for users in the U.S. Announced in July 2020, the feature was expected to be released in September, however, it’s just now being made available. 

Many of Microsoft’s competitors have already announced similar features in the recently ultra-competitive videoconferencing space. The move by Microsoft comes on the heels of Zoom releasing its live transcription feature in February. Cisco’s Webex, with closed captioning, and Google’s Chrome, with live captioning, also announced their version of the feature recently. 

As you might expect, live transcription is exactly what it sounds like. Everything those participating in a virtual meeting say is transcribed. That transcription is then available for those not attending the meeting or for those that would like to review the meeting without having to watch a recording of it. Based on the user’s name that is entered at the beginning of a virtual meeting, the feature can also identify who is speaking in the meeting.

It’s a nice way to avoid that fatigue I mentioned earlier that often comes from having to participate in too many videoconferences.

“Delivering live transcription with high accuracy, minimal latency, and cost efficiency at enterprise scale has been one of the toughest challenges in the industry,” Microsoft’s lead for conversational AI in Teams, Shalendra Chhabra, said. “Over the last two years we’ve made significant strides in solving this problem and have dramatically improved our models for accuracy using meeting context in real time and cutting edge AI.”

Currently, live transcription can only be used for scheduled meetings in Teams that are combined with some of the business and enterprise Office 365 subscriptions. In the future, it’ll also be available for those who use the Meet Now feature and channel meetings. However, it’s not clear exactly when users will be able to use it in those ways. 

It looks like Microsft learned a lesson from its recent blunder surrounding user privacy. Without any humans being involved, live transcription for Teams performs its service by using data from the virtual meeting. So, no one at Microsoft is able to see the content of the meeting and the company doesn’t use the data to build and refine its AI. Additionally, the models used to perform the transcription are deleted right after the meeting.

As far as accuracy goes, literally, don’t bet your life on it.

“Note that live transcription is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate and so should not be relied upon in life-altering situations,” Chhabra said.