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From Shorthand to Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of Transcription Technology


Millions of audio and video files are produced every day by businesses and organizations in virtually every industry. In fact, the sheer volume of unstructured data has increased to the point that analysts at Gartner estimate that upwards of 80% of all organizational data exists in these types of formats. In this context, where there is a clear shift from written content to audio and video, the need for transcription technology has never been more critical.


When is Transcription Required?

For many businesses, transcription of audio files is a necessary element of the core process, further enforced by a variety of legal regulations. For example, in higher education, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandate that all videos be captioned for complete accessibility. In entertainment and media, the FCC Closed Captioning Regulations and 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act require that captions be highly accurate so that individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing can consume content without any barriers. In the legal industry, all court proceedings, as well as activities that take place in law firms, must be accurately documented via legal transcription. Therefore, in these industries especially, speech transcription software is essential.  


How Transcription Technology Has Changed

Before the advent of digital transcription software, the task of converting speech to text was accomplished manually. Individuals who were charged with transcribing audio had to listen to the speaker and type out what they heard. This presented a number of challenges, as prior to the development of recording technologies, the transcriber had to be physically located where the service was required. Due to the manual nature of the work, advanced skills, like shorthand, were required to get the job done. Once basic recording tools, such as cassette tapes and portable recorders, were developed and made more available, the work became much more flexible and new possibilities emerged. Transcribers could now work remotely and take on more jobs for various types of businesses.

As the field developed further, specialized transcription equipment began to emerge. One such example is the transcription foot pedal, a device that allows a transcriber to control the playback of the audio, and advance or rewind the recording with their foot, leaving their hands free to keep typing.  

With the evolution of modern technology, including speech recognition, the task of transcription became even easier and more accessible. Audio recordings can now be made using more sophisticated tools for clearer sound, and files can be converted to different types and then stored locally on a device, or in the cloud.

With the advancement of technology came more advanced digital transcription software. Today’s state-of-the-art speech digital transcription equipment includes a variety of sophisticated features, including text expanders, term search, built-in spelling and grammar checks, and even audio equalizers to reduce background noise and control bass/treble.

Despite these advancements, most professional transcription providers today continue to rely on manual methods, resulting in expensive service costs and long turnaround times. This approach also limits scalability, operating at smaller volumes for lower profit margins.

Furthermore, the few organizations that do utilize digital transcription software only reach an average accuracy rate of 70-80%, falling short of the quality standards for many industries, where, in some cases, even 95% is insufficient to convey complex material. What separates the leaders from the rest of the pack? The answer lies in AI technology.


AI-Powered Transcription Technology

Propelled by the advancement of sophisticated AI technologies, the speech-to-text market is currently experiencing a boom. In fact, the $55-billion speech recognition industry has been forecasted to grow 11% from 2016 to 2024.

AI-driven speech recognition technology works using algorithms through acoustic and linguistic modeling. Acoustic modeling refers to the connection between linguistic units of speech and audio signals, while language modeling matches those sounds with word sequences to differentiate between similar-sounding words.

A key innovation that has spurred the evolution of dictation transcription software is the introduction of context-focused algorithms. It can often be hard to differentiate between two similar-sounding phrases without any background information. However, if the speech-to-text engine is fed with data about the particular subject matter, it can accurately convert the spoken words to text with minimal errors. Going forward, more available data and context-focused algorithms will result in better predictive models and even higher accuracy levels, with minimal need for human intervention.


Although speech recognition technology has come a long way, there is still room to grow. One area that offers significant room for improvement is in accent recognition. Speech analytics is another field that holds a lot of promise for future advancement. Turning unstructured data such as audio and video files into structured, text-based information will enable greater pattern recognition and the extraction of practical insights which is sure to have a great impact on many industries. As the amount of unstructured data continues to grow, digital transcription systems that are powered by AI technology stand to revolutionize the speed and accuracy of workflows in a variety of industries.

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The Cost of Not Embracing Advanced Court Reporting Technology

Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders, Radio Shack. The business world is ripe with cautionary tales of once-thriving companies that ultimately succumbed to failure. The common thread that connects them all? A reluctance to adapt to changing ways and, specifically, advanced technology. This resistance to embrace new technology and lack of innovation gradually led to these organizations being overtaken by established competitors or by new players on the scene. 

Digital transformation has been a hot topic in recent years. As new tech tools are being developed faster than ever, businesses must adapt or risk succumbing to the consequences of not being on board with technology. However, despite clear changes taking place in virtually every industry and the consequences of not adapting being abundantly clear, some resistance to embracing new technologies still remains. Comments like “We’ve always done things that way” are not altogether uncommon. 


Driving the Evolution of Court Reporting Equipment

The profession of court reporting has always been intrinsically connected with technology and has consequently evolved as the technology has changed. Once upon a time, court reporters traded in quills and inkwells for the stenotype machines. In fact, back in 1906, when the first commercial stenotype machine was introduced, the tool was welcomed with open arms as it made the arduous task of court reporting slightly easier. That early innovation would change the industry forever, with the modern keyboard that stenographers use today having evolved from this groundbreaking machine’s early design.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where AI-enabled transcription and voice recognition software represents the next frontier in reporting tools. When applied to automated speech recognition (ASR) technology, AI has the potential to improve speech-to-text engines to the point that they can transcribe jargon-heavy legal proceedings highly accurately, while simplifying processes and workflows.   


Benefits of Court Reporter Tools Far Outweigh the Costs 

New technologies will only be developed faster, resulting in more fierce competition. In order to stand out as the top choice, companies must embrace these changes. Simply reacting to new technologies isn’t enough; being proactive is necessary. Companies that are slow to innovate will be overtaken and replaced. We’ve already seen some of the casualties. 

Many businesses remain stubborn about adopting new technologies due to the perceived high costs. It’s undeniable that taking on new technology systems is an investment. However, the cost of not keeping up with innovations are far greater than any savings that are accomplished by not upgrading. 

Here are some of the benefits organizations can enjoy: 

Gain market share

Being open to new technology allows organizations to maintain a competitive edge over others in the field. When a company embraces digital transformation, it often becomes the dominant player in the market, leaving others to play catch-up or risk failure.


Improve processes with court reporting software  

The true value of technology, AI, in particular, comes in completing time-consuming, repetitive work. The fact is, machines don’t have a bad day. They aren’t affected by factors like fatigue, or illness and, therefore, can finish these tasks faster with fewer errors.  But, while machines can process, store and recall information much faster than people, human professionals still need to apply critical thinking to that information. Therefore, by leaving the mundane or tedious tasks to the machines, AI brings immense potential payoff for organizations. 


Latest court reporting technology provides greater visibility

Running on outdated technology restricts an organization’s ability to gain a clear view of all aspects of their business. Not adapting to novel technology results in not receiving thorough insight into operations and limits the ability to make informed decisions. 


Better Communication through new court reporter tools

Technology provides the ability to communicate through multiple channels and forums. AI-based chatbots provide businesses with yet another touchpoint to communicate with customers. Organizations that leverage all available technologies to reach out to potential and existing clients benefit from more opportunities to win business. 


Provide court reporting services with enhanced customer experience 

The digital takeover goes hand in hand with what has been dubbed the “4th industrial revolution”, referring to the widespread adoption and use of highly advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence. The daily use of different technologies has blurred the lines between the physical and digital spheres and has set a high standard of customer expectations in terms of how services must be delivered. Today’s tech-empowered customer expects business services to be just as digitized as their personal lives and interactions. Organizations must arm themselves with tech tools to deliver a superior experience.     


Going Forward 

In today’s business landscape, an organization’s technology strategy is inextricably linked to their overall company strategy. A business that is interested in becoming an industry leader no longer has the luxury of not adapting. By grounding strategy and tactics in technology, organizations can ensure that they are operating at the highest level and exceeding their customers’ needs. 

In particular, court reporting companies that embrace the latest technologies are poised to become invaluable for all levels of courts as well as for the legal system at large. The innovation of AI applied to legal transcription has the potential to pave the way for an updated version of the profession of court reporting. Skilled individuals who are experts at overseeing the many different technologies that are involved in the modern courtroom are sure to be in high demand going forward as the digital revolution takes hold in the legal sector. 

To quote Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” The same logic can be applied in the business world. Organizations that are nimble and open to changes are those that will stand the test of time and thrive in today’s ultra-competitive landscape.  

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