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With the push for greater web accessibility online, companies like WhatsApp, the most widely used mobile messenger application worldwide, are implementing new features. WhatsApp plans to release an AI transcription tool for its 2 billion monthly active users to access. The feature will allow users to receive auto-generated transcripts for all voice messages sent.

WhatsApp’s transcription option aims to provide more accessibility to all users, including those with hearing impairment, as well as those who simply prefer to read their messages versus listen to them.

How WhatsApp’s Voice Transcription Works

The new transcription feature, first spotted in the iOS versions of the application by WABetaInfo, is still in the early development stages. The new voice transcription feature will work by sending “speech data” to Apple.

Rather than using a WhatsApp-developed artificial intelligence, Apple’s speech recognition technology will be used to process the transcription request. The process outlined implies that the user’s transcription data won’t be sent to servers on WhatsApp or Facebook, the application’s parent company.

Along with the end-to-end encryption feature released by WhatsApp earlier this year, users can look forward to a more secure and private WhatsApp experience when using the optional transcription feature.

“When a message is transcripted…its transcription is saved locally in the WhatsApp database, so it won’t [need transcription] again if you want to see its transcription later,” WABetaInfo reported.

Screenshot from WhatsApp that explains how speech data from the app will be sent to Apple to process transcription requests. Image: WABetaInfo
Screenshot from WhatsApp that explains how speech data from the app will be sent to Apple to process transcription requests. Image: WABetaInfo

What The Announcement Means for Businesses Using WhatsApp

With many businesses using WhatsApp to communicate with employees and customers via private chats and groups, this transcription feature is likely to help them keep channels clearer and account for disability needs.

Using transcription within WhatsApp offers:

  • Convenience for busy users: Voice messages are useful for sending out quick messages without needing to type the words out manually. Transcription then allows businesses and individuals using the app to engage with voice notes sent in written form if they may not be in a scenario where playing or hearing the audio is feasible.
  • Greater customer engagement: In-app transcription will allow businesses to increase customer engagement. Transcripts can be used to help make voice messages searchable, allowing customers to easily find the exact point of a voice note they want to refer back to, for example, when making a purchase. Transcripts can also benefit businesses that are doing research on their customer needs and expectations, allowing them to easily review valuable insights from past conversations in WhatsApp.
  • Accessibility for users with disabilities: With over 5% of the world’s population having hearing loss, in-app voice transcriptions will offer businesses the ability to expand their reach to the hard-of-hearing and deaf employees and customers who represent a large part of the WhatsApp market. It’s important to note though that using AI-based transcription alone often won’t result in the accuracy needed to truly provide equity to these individuals. Using a platform like Verbit which uses humans to fact check the AI-based transcripts is always a safer bet.

Image of a person sitting down with a cup of coffee while looking at their cell phone.

New Challenges & Opportunities

WhatsApp’s voice transcription will likely offer businesses and individuals new opportunities to engage and communicate with employees and customers, yet the accuracy of these transcripts is one challenge which is sure to arise.

While WhatsApp’s new voice transcription solution avoids the need to go through 3rd party applications to get transcripts, once released, the accuracy levels provided in these transcripts will likely need room for further testing and evaluation.

For business leaders who are looking to provide accessibility to their clients, as well as accuracy to present professionally, using human edited transcription software such as Verbit’s is best practice. Verbit offers businesses useful AI transcription and captioning tools that guarantee 99%+ accuracy to offer employees and consumers equitable experiences when encountering brands and communicating with them. . To learn more about implementing these tools, reach out to us.