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Transcribing: How Voice Recognition Fails

By David K. Woods, Ph.D.
Researcher at WRCU & Lead Developer of Transana

Originally posted on www.transana.org

On March 18, 2010. Dr. Paul Dempster, a Research Fellow at University of Leeds, did an experiment with voice recognition software, trying to get it to transcribe two audio files. He used one of the top-name commercial voice recognition products. He used media files from news reports, files with only one or two speakers and with very high audio quality compared to most research media collected in the field, so he was really testing ideal circumstances.

Below are the results. The voice recognition transcript is on the left and my manual transcript generated using Transana is on the right. Both transcripts are presented in editable text fields so that you can try to align them, if you are so inclined, and so you can explore the experience of correcting voice-recognition transcripts.

His first attempt used this audio file.

Here’s Paul’s Voice Recognition transcript.

And 88 is Stuart Jewson chain in at the government’s borrowing policy and 80 you secretly they pass it and giving a talk directly to a Treasury not mean you have a particular interest to me and you think you mention you in a highly regarded as Italy to make it 80 folk are the and analysed the public and should be Faster than it actually engaging in anti-83 and a good very keen to paint in the deaths had occurred between a target will continue to hold the investment bank I had we are in the can actually what my thinking and on the 80 party after the election in an enhanced by gunmen yesterday the OECD Organisation for economic operation development think tank is it the U.K.’s not only the severe recession was boiling down its growth forecast and the truth that you are the best of the world is the singular agenda is inside the recession and a new kinds not so subtle in quite a while and depressing me to come in and you think that the economy will contract at graphical 20% year N will be for fruity and intends so I shall really meet me in any economy is turning up at 3-month-old problem including a tightening of the banks still refusing to lend the company fell on a relatively think that even if the coming around the corner it will be pretty slow and hands are here in a long painful prototyping and 80 you you highlighting meanwhile head of the other killer at the tripartite system the financial services authority revealed yesterday in its annual report that 14% of its salary bill considered bonuses the FSI the city watchdog awarded its global director of £400,000 payoff why the FSA will be big bonuses and 8 demonstrates that the culture of performance related bonuses the East entrench not just in the gatekeeper in a much wider range of life including in public life in public service and arguably you know the FSA is it has watched practically had the bank who provides many years were victims structure is absolutely the Norman and you know it expects the idea that the waitress invented by people in about 70 member of the public and it is probably pretty frightening that the economy is happening within architecture fully aware of this type of Hector sent via the sidebottom 80s bonus of £130,000 you think is very interesting I think they probably realised that they are pretty shocking headlines date given that it is hard to argue that yesterday damaged property during the downturn it would be pretty extraordinary that anyone speak misleading about this year I think I think that that failure accountable jet described in this part

 

Here’s what I transcribed, for comparison.

The Observer’s business editor is Heather Stewart.

She says King, in effect, attacked the government’s borrowing policy.

He certainly did. I think this is potentially pretty explosive stuff. There’s a convention that the Bank of England doesn’t talk directly about fiscal policy, just as the Treasury now is not really meant to pontificate on the subject of where interest rates should be.

And yet, King made a very direct intervention.

He said “If the economy recovers as rapidly as the government expected it to in its budget forecasts, that the deficit should be cut back.”

In other words, the public spending should be cut faster than the Treasury envisiges.

This is, politically, very explosive territory because Gordon Brown is very keen to paint the next election as a battle between a labour party that would continue to hold levels of investment, public spending, quite high, and a Tory party that would cut that back.

And actually, what Mervyn King is saying is “hang on, these deficits are so bit, whatever party is in power after the next election, they’re going to have to cut public spending hard.”

And there was more bad news for the government yesterday. The OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development think tank, says that the UK is not only in a severe recession, but it’s revising down its growth forecast and says that, you know, while the rest of the world is (saying/seeing) the end is in sight for the recession, the UK is not performing quite so well.

Indeed, this is pretty depressing news for the government, really. The OECD now thinks that the economy will contract by a pretty catastrophic 4.3% this year, and then will be flat through 2010, so there’s been a lot of talk about green shoots recently, and there is some evidence that the economy is turning up, but actually there are a lot of unsolved problems, including the dire state of the banks, which are still refusing to lend to companies and so on.

So there are lots of reasons to think that, even if recovery is around the corner, it will be pretty slow and, you know, a kind of long, painful process, I think, and that, that’s the issue that the OECD is highlighting.

Meanwhile, head of the other pillar of the tripartide system, the Financial Services Authority, revealed yesterday in its annual report that 14% of its salary bill consists of bonuses. The FSA, the city watchdog, awarded its former directory a 400,000 pound payoff. Why has the FSA awarded these bonuses?

Well, I think it just demonstrates that the culture of performance-related bonuses is, is entreched not just in the city, but in a much wider swath of life, including in public life and public service.

And arguably, you know, the FSA is, has watched the practices of the banks it supervised for many years where this, this sort of structure is absolutely the norm, and, you know, accepts the idea that this is the way to incentivize people, and, but actually, I think if you’re a member of the public, it’s probably pretty surprising that, that, that this is something that’s happening in the public sector.

They’re clearly aware of this, though, ’cause Hector Sants, the FSA boss, waived his bonus of 130,000 pounds.

Yes, I think that’s very interesting. I think they probably realized that there’d be some pretty shocking headlines, give, given that it’s hard to argue that the FSA has done its job properly during this downturn.

It would be pretty extraordinary for anyone to be receiving a bonus this year, I think, so I, I think that, that’s a sensible gest, gesture on Hect Sants’ part.

 

His second attempt used this video file. It was considerably more successful, due in part to having a single speaker with careful annunciation.

Here’s Paul’s Voice Recognition transcript.

A wee game to economic mess the fuel was leveraged a fancy name are borrowing we borrowed too much when all the money to these loans come from well supposedly brilliant bankers built and natural super highway linking east to west channel in the enormous savings of the fast-growing exporting economies of Asia Russia and the Middle East to home lives and companies left result we borrowed will record amount especially in the UK and the US Eve keyword together a personal corporate and public sector debt ratio of all that debt to GDP the that the economy is 300% in America and Britain which may be an all-time record in other words we would probably be living beyond our means and at current interest rates around 20% of all we produced our economic output goes on raising interest on a vast debts what is worse also have to pay up visible only truly in terms of borrowings so why were we said Damon to take on its future natural burden well we can both comfort and the apparent affordability and interest payment up interest rates helped and then got that that principle also has to be repaid here is something else about all that level it all borrowing it is not the only old fuel the price of houses and sets will rocket fuel and then gets Glatt boosted property prices which gave banks the confidence to lend even more against the collateral of this inflated property which pushed up property prices even walk which certainly an even more debt that this rocket fuel drove prices into room left in a flyweight when all of a sudden awakening that asset prices had risen to March at that point lead and then wanted their money back that what happened with a vengeance in August 2007 because lenders and investors could no longer ignore the losses there were facing on hundreds of billions of dollars they provided in sub-prime loans to US homebuyers with a poor credit history what we saw then with the death of trust in the banking system and the institutional lenders and banks fear that almost any bank could go bust as a result of lawsuit they could incur on these past crazy loans banks became reluctant to lend to each other and there was a simply terrible double squeeze on them banks face losses on their loans which are raided their capital and threatened their solvency and they had appalling difficulty obtaining cash to meet their day-to-day needs they suffered what is known as a liquidity crisis British banks were particularly vulnerable because they were very dependable providers of wholesale credit who wanted their money back here in the chilling statistics from British banks in 2001 British banks had Zero net dependent on sons from wholesale markets but my 2007 that dependence had risen to £625 billion that is £625 billion of cash from assorted financial institutions and banks who in the recent climate of falling asset prices and fears about the weakness of banks trying to get their money back and quickly these being credited with the victory action is about British banks because of our banks exposure to tumbling housing and property markets a couple of big worrying numbers are that there had been 1200 billion pounds of mortgage loans provided to British homeowners and our banks have lent £127 billion the commercial property deals just those 2 forms of debt are equivalent to a total GDP are only coming out that there was a related reason why our banks have been so vulnerable they had to pay back some £250 billion of finance rates on mortgages in the form of a called mortgage-backed securities in less than 3 years that is why the Treasury has recently said it will give a £250 billion guarantee the borrowing by banks from each other and from financial institutions which is a way of taxpayers providing to banks or other institutions do not want to lend any more so by now you should have a shrewd idea of why Northern Rock HBOS and Bradford & Bingley are the British banks which came to power finally close to total meltdown and need to be rescued by nationalisation or takeover they all have a heavy dependence on wholesale markets and massive exposure to get you guessed it something house prices back in September the entire banking system came perilous a close to collapse as almost every company or institution called at the pauses in any bank proceeded even marginally at risk that is why governments around the world have promised a pub in well over £2 trillion of taxpayers money into banks and our government with the Bank of England is lending some £600 million of taxpayers money to British banks here some better news I suppose I investors worried about the outlook of the private sector in what may turn out to be a global recession are increasingly keen to lend to governments and governments are able to borrow the milestones that they are pumping into banks but this cannot go on forever one-day our banks will have to pay us taxpayers back and that is one reason why our banks are not keen to start lending rules on any great the increased scale because the more that they lent the more dependent they become on help from taxpayers on help from us

Here’s what I transcribed, for comparison.

How did we get into this economic mess? The fuel was leverage, a fancy name for borrowing. We borrowed too much.

Where did all the money for these loans come from? Well, supposedly brilliant bankers built a financial super-highway linking East to West, channelling the enormous savings of the fast-growing exporting ecomomies of Asia, Russia, and the Middle East, to home buyers and companies in the West.

Result? We borrowed record amounts, especially in the UK and the US. If you add together personal, corporate, and public sector debt, the ratio of all that debt to GDP, the output of the economy, is 300% in American and Britian, which may be an all-time record. In other words, we’ve probably been living beyond our means, and, at current interest rates, about 20% of all we produce, our economic output, goes on simply paying the interest on those vast debts. What’s worse, we also have to pay off the principle on these trillions of pounds of borrowings.

So, why were we so dim so as to take on this huge financial burden? Well, we took false comfort from the apparent affordability of interest payments after interest rates fell, and forgot that the principle also has to be repaid.

Here’s something else about all that leverage, or borrowing: It’s not any old fuel for the prices of houses and assets, it’s rocket fuel. The debt glut boosted property prices, which gave banks the confidence to lend even more against the collateral of this inflated property, which pushed up property prices even more, which sucked in even more debt. But this rocket fuel drove prices into reverse in a terrified way, when there was a sudden awakening that those asset prices had risen too much.

At that point, lenders wanted their money back. That’s what happened with a vengence in August, 2007, because lenders and investors could no longer ignore the losses they were facing on hundreds of billions of dollars they provided in sub-prime loans to U.S. home buyers with a poor credit history. What we saw then was the death of trust in the banking system, as institutional lenders and banks feared that almost any bank could go bust as a result of losses they could incur on these past crazy loans. Banks became reluctant to loan to each other, and there was a simply terrible double squeeze on them.

Banks faced losses on their loans, which eroded their capital, and threatened their solvency, and they had appalling difficulty obtaining cash to meet their day-to-day needs. They suffered what’s known as a liquidity crisis. British banks were particularly vulnerable, because they were very dependent upon providers of wholesale credit, who wanted their money back.

Here are the chilling statistics for British banks:

In 2001, British banks had zero net dependence on funds from wholesale markets. But by 2007, that dependence had risen to 625 billion pounds. That’s 625 billion pounds of cash from assorted financial institutions and banks, who in the recent climate of falling asset prices and fears about the weakness of banks tried to get their money back, and quickly.

These big crediters were particularly anxious about British banks because of our banks exposure to tumbling housing and property markets. A couple of big and worrying numbers are that there’ve been 12 hundred billion pounds of mortgage loans provided to British home owners and our banks have lent 127 billion pounds for commercial property deals. Just those two forms of debt are equivalent to our total GDP, our annual economic output.

There was a related reason why our banks have been so vulnerable. They had to pay back some 250 billion pounds of finance raised for mortgages in the form of what are called mortgage-backed securities in less than three years. That’s why the treasury has recently said it’ll give a 250 billion pound guarantee for borrowing buy-backs from each other and from financial institutions, which is a way of tax payers providing to banks what other institutions don’t want to lend any more.

So, by now, you should have a shrewd idea of why Northern Rock, HBOS, and Bradford and Bingly are the British banks which came terrifyingly close to total meltdown, and have needed to be rescued by nationalization or take-over. They all have a heavy dependence on wholesale markets, and massive exposure to, yes, you guessed it, tumbling house prices.

But in September, the entire banking system came perilously close to collapse, as almost every company or institution pulled out deposits from any bank perceived as even marginally at risk. That’s why governments around the world have promised to pump well over 2 trillion pounds of taxpayers money into banks, and our government, with the Bank of England, is lending some 600 billion pounds of taxpayers money to British banks.

Here’s some better news, I suppose. Investors, worried about the outlook for the private sector, in what may turn out to be a global recession, are increasingly keen to lend to governments. So governments are able to borrow the vast sums that they are pumping in to banks. But this can’t go on forever. One day, our banks will have to pay us, taxpayers, back, and that’s one reason why our banks aren’t keen to start lending to all of us on any greatly-increased scale, because the more that they lend, the more dependent they become on help from taxpayers, on help from us.

Remember, these were both source files with excellent audio quality, one or two speakers, no overlapping speech, and no background noise at all. How well does this match your research media?

Voice recognition is a promising technology. (They’ve been promising the technology for decades!) It’s just not capable of doing what we need yet.