Transcription and Captioning for Complex Topics – How Does it Work?

By: Danielle Chazen

Today’s business leaders, educators and media professionals are tasked with providing accessible materials to account for a variety of scenarios. From students participating remotely with disabilities to consumers watching news silently, captions and transcriptions are being utilized to make these materials more dynamic and accessible.

However, providing basic captions and transcription to ‘check a box’ without utilizing a service that can handle complex topics or terminology and perform at the level of accuracy that many of these industries require can do more harm than good.

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Industries utilizing transcription and captioning

Industries currently implementing transcription and captioning tools the most include higher education, legal, media, enterprise and medical. In the higher education and media settings, there are many legal guidelines such as those outlined by the ADA and FCC, which require these industries to caption and transcribe their content. Legal and medical professionals rely on transcripts to serve as the record for proceedings and meetings, respectively.

Enterprises present more diverse use cases. Businesses are increasingly relying on these tools to provide equal opportunities for employees who may or may not have reported disabilities and require technology to assist them. They also are utilizing captions for all externally distributed materials that may be consumed silently on a platform such as social. They’re also helping to fuel more effective communications for companies which operate globally to provide live captioning and transcripts of corporate meetings, livestreamed conferences and town halls to provide an additional visual aid.

Regardless of the use case, all of these industries are turning to transcription and captioning technologies to enhance all audio and video captured experiences. With an increased need and use of these tools, having access to not just the tools themselves, but ones which operate efficiently and provide accuracy is paramount.

The importance of accuracy

Many captioning and transcription services which are free for example, may provide professionals, students and consumers with tools, but they may lack in terms of accuracy. Having next-to-perfect captions and transcripts is often critical for many of these industries.

For example, in legal, one word transcribed incorrectly can completely alter the meaning of a proceeding and prevent justice from being served effectively. Media consumers who are deaf can misinterpret the news they’re watching when the captions do not match the news being reported. Medical professionals also need to ensure their transcripts which serve as notes for patient appointments are captured with accuracy. The stakes are quite high with higher education as well, which relies on the standard of 99% accuracy to ensure accessibility is provided to students.

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The challenges of obtaining accuracy

The challenge that each of these industries faces is that oftentimes, the words and subject matter being captioned and transcribed covers more complex topics and terminology. Being able to caption complex terminology accurately can be difficult for many existing tools available.

There is also a growing shortage of human professionals available to produce the captions and transcriptions live, let alone those who are subject matter experts on the complex topics themselves.

These industries and their professionals are therefore turning more to Artificial Intelligence based transcription and captioning tools to fuel the process. AI-based tools utilize automatic-speech-recognition technology to identify, caption and transcribe what is being said. AI-focused tools present these professionals with a quick method to get captions and transcriptions produced and at higher levels of accuracy.

How AI tools generate accuracy

AI-based tools are designed to get smarter with time and usage. They can pick up on difficult speaker cadences and accents at a greater level of accuracy than human transcribers often can. They can also better differentiate between various speakers within the audio to know who said what and generate more accurate results.

With the ability to learn and grow, AI can also be utilized to handle the captions and transcription of difficult topics. For example, courses in a university setting which are science or medical based are prime use cases for AI-powered tools. The same can be said in a legal setting where processes and terminology can be quite complicated. Users can upload textbooks of information into the AI machine to train it to become an expert in difficult terminology and pick up on complex topics seamlessly.

With accuracy being critical in these important settings where accessibility, justice and malpractice can become significant issues, the ability to confidently rely on AI can present professionals with great peace of mind.

An extra level of assurance

While AI tools on their own can present incredible levels of accuracy that only get better with use, Verbit and some other providers utilize human editors to ensure users are guaranteed the level of accuracy they need.

In this process, the AI machine goes to work to generate the ‘first draft’ of the captions and transcription and then human editors fact check the work of the machine in real time. These highly trained human professionals edit the work in real time to ensure clients are provided with accurate transcripts and captions to meet the necessary legal and accessibility guidelines.

All can benefit from transcription of complex topics

Regardless of disability and accessibility measures, all participants and viewers in a variety of settings and industries can only stand to benefit from the visual aid that captions and transcripts provide to them. When consuming more complex material, trying to understand difficult terminology or various accents, captions and transcripts can help these viewers and participants live and in real-time.

Moreover, Verbit and some other solution providers offer captions and transcripts with interactive elements. For example, professionals and students can highlight complex terms in the transcript to come back to and take notes throughout to reference or collaborate on at later points. They can also save time with tools that help to make all audio and video searchable so professionals and students can quickly skip to the specific clip of interest to them.

These added features can make all the difference in terms of engagement and comprehension of courses, virtual lectures, town halls, meetings, proceedings and content.