Listening to emails and reading voicemails (and a free voice to text trial from Spinvox)
I've been banging on for ages about the future state when we'll be able to listen to our emails and read our voicemails. And we're now on the brink of being able to do just that. Exchange Server "12" will introduce new unified messaging capabilities that will allow messages left on a phone system to be embedded into messages arriving in your Outlook Inbox. Users will also be able to phone their Exchange Server to have emails read out to them or use voice commands to interact with content they would normally only access through the Outlook client. All of this is great but this only allows us to 'listen to emails'. The 'read our voicemails' component remains tantalisingly out of reach.
Transcribing telephone messages is a hit and miss affair. Traditional phone lines only transmit voice at about 8kbps and that's only enough to guarantee about 70% accuracy in transcription. As more services move to VOIP (voice over IP) the potential for accurate voice transcription improves significantly allowing more than 95% accuracy in most instances. 70% accurate may sound high but it creates significant risk for mis-transcription leading to either gobbledegook or, more dangerously, complete misunderstandings. Who knows what could happen when "Don, Sell all the shares in Big Ship Inc" becomes "Don't sell all the shears in Pig Sheep Ink".
Thankfully, third-party services are already available that allow you to test automated voice transcription for yourself. There's a free 7 day trial available from http://www.spinvox.com/ that will convert your voice-messages into SMS text messages. Have a play and see what you think. It's impressive stuff and hugely useful if you're in a public place or meeting, or simply in a noisy arena or club and unable to hear your voice-messages clearly. The general accuracy is very good (my wife asked if some poor soul was manually transcribing the messages). Just be alert for gobbledegook and if in doubt verify that the text conveys the meaning that the sender intended!