AI Transcription vs Human Transcription: Who Wins The Battle?

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ai transcription vs human transcription

Transcription is a very important part of everyday life for:  

  • Professionals from all walks of life, whose days are packed with meetings.
  • Those meetings on the go. A transcript from a meeting management software like Aira will ensure that you don’t miss important details from your meeting.
  • Journalists, who hold interviews and have to meet reporting deadlines
  • Students, who are constantly struggling with coursework, research and exam deadlines
  • People who have hearing challenges. Transcriptions are also useful for those who have a hearing impairment.

The ability to transform audio files into text for all these groups of people makes text editable, organizable in a manner that makes sense to those who use it, and more accessible for those who prefer to read instead of consume video or audio content. This is the case especially for meetings, whereby meeting minutes are best accessed via text.

Text files make it easy for people to peruse and see all details of a meeting at a glance, including action items and assigned tasks.


The differentiation: AI transcription vs human transcription?

The choice between AI transcription vs human transcription comes down to 2 things:

  • Accuracy
  • Cost vs time

1. Accuracy

A transcription is considered accurate if:

  • It has no spelling errors
  • The language is clear and the text captures nuances
  • The meaning conveyed is what was relayed in the audio, both in weight and accuracy

Manual transcription is usually done by people who listen to a file, then type what they hear. One of the main use cases for manual transcription is when dealing with people with foreign accents, a lot of background noise or where there are multiple speakers in the audio. In addition, some companies typically use human transcription only. For example, film production, legal firms, research companies and academia. These industries prefer to use humans because of their high accuracy level.

Since humans understand nuanced language, the accuracy levels for transcriptions done manually by humans are higher than those done by AI.

That said, a greater understanding of machine learning has led to the growth of sophisticated digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa, which are great for everyday personal use. There are also new services such as Aira, which are more useful in a business setting and will handle everything from meeting scheduling to transcribing meeting notes and emailing them.

The main drawback of AI is that as compared to human beings, AI needs to learn first, so that it can perform with human precision. You could argue that the same might also apply to humans; we do after all need to learn everything first. But while AI might learn spoken words and even self-correct with repeated learning, AI still has difficultly recognizing nuances in language and making accurate translations where slang is us2ed.

2. Cost vs time

The cost of transcription services is a lot lower when using AI. The cost of human transcribers can range anywhere from $40 to $200 per hour. That is very costly when you regularly have to work with a lot of audio files. Not to mention, there are additional costs depending on factors like accent, turn-around-time, accuracy levels and audio quality.

During economic recessions when cost cutting is the order of the day, manual transcription can burn a hole in your pocket and prove to be unsustainable in the long run.

In addition to costing higher, human transcribers do take a longer time to work through a file. It takes a human transcriber roughly 5 hours to transcribe a video or audio file. As such, manual transcription services may not meet expected deadlines, and this might disappoint you if you are working with tight deadlines.


Which transcription service should you choose? AI or human?

Ai or human transcription

The choice between manual vs AI transcription comes down to a few things, some of which include:

What do you need to transcribe?

Human transcription is especially useful for big projects such as market research, survey studies, product launches among other sensitive projects. Such projects require such a high rate of accuracy, that it is necessary to use human transcribers.

However, if your company can invest in an editor, then you can still use a mix of AI transcription services and a human editor even for such projects.

Accuracy

As discussed above, the higher the accuracy of your output, the better. Some software, particularly free software, can have low accuracy levels. Depending on the transcription software you use, accuracy levels may fall below the accepted 80% accuracy level.

What is the deadline for the transcription?

Companies that use AI usually do so:

  • When they need the transcript immediately,
  • When they need a rough draft that an editor can work with,
  • If the audio equipment is clear and can filter background noise

Even where deadlines are not strict, transcribing using AI is still a preferable option because it opens up your time to do other work. If you can get through your tasks faster, then AI makes all the sense in the world.

How much work do you need to transcribe?

Humans lack the ability for real-time transcription especially when working with large files. AI can do it in a matter of minutes. When time is of the essence, it’s better to use AI but note that before you share those files, you need to review them.

How much budget are you working with?

AI transcription is a lot more economical as compared to human transcribers. Even where human editing will be needed, having an AI transcript will still save you money because your editor would not need to start from scratch. 

Is the speech nuanced?

Nuances in spoken language can pose a challenge for AI transcribers, leading to inaccurate transcriptions. However, note that after AI learns, it becomes better at interpreting nuanced language.


Should you do your audio transcription yourself?

You may want to do the transcription yourself if you are concerned about cost or where you feel you are the only person who can do it right. While this is certainly doable, there are downsides to this approach:

  • Transcribing is time consuming
  • You’re likely to make mistakes if you are not a professional transcriptionist

You also have to invest in a lot of tools if you have to do the transcription yourself. For example:

Foot Pedal

A foot pedal allows you to use your foot for operations such as play, pause and rewind. This leaves your hands free to type.

Headphones

Audio files usually include words and other background noises such as clanking keyboards, human sounds, pauses, etc. All this noise is captured in a transcription file, along with the words said. A pair of high quality noise-cancelling headphones will ensure that you get clear audio and thereby limit the number of times you have to rewind and relisten.

Chair

A comfortable, and preferably ergonomic chair will make the time you spend transcribing more enjoyable. A good chair should support your back, make you sit in a good posture and eliminate muscle fatigue. Your chair should also support blood circulation.


Bottom line

As you can see, the choice between AI and human transcription really depends on what your priorities are and the nature of your work. When using meeting AI for example, scheduling conflict can simply be resolved by having an AI meeting assistant attend a meeting for you. In the end, most people usually go for a hybrid mix of AI and human transcribers, as both complement each other.

Whatever the case, whether you choose manual or AI, you will get more success with paid transcription services. This is because paid services come with more editing tools and higher accuracy levels as compared to free services.  

Image credits: unsplash.com, pixabay.com

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