I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends
Here is a patent on voicemail transcription from one of the founders of SpinVox who I met with some months back. The patent does describe having live operators listen to and correct voicemails which are transcribed to text. This does not mean all voicemails are sent to live operators but one of my readers sent me this link and it is worth sharing. The text of the patent is below.
Voicemail is received at a voicemail server and converted to an audio file format; it is then sent or streamed over a wide area network to a voice to text transcription system comprising a network of computers. One of the networked computers plays back the voice message to an operator and the operator intelligently transcribes the actual message from the original voice message by entering the corresponding text message (actually a succinct version of the original voice message, not a verbose word-for-word conversion) into the computer to generate a transcribed text message. The transcribed text message is then sent to the wireless information device from the computer. Because human operators are used instead of machine transcription, voicemails are converted accurately, intelligently, appropriately and succinctly into text messages (SMS/MMS).
It is worth pointing out that in the case of SpinVox the e-mail matches the voicemail perfectly (well this is what is attempted anyway.) So this patent does not necessarily apply to the service I have tested or even the service which is being sold to the public.
Nonetheless, I have received countless e-mails and calls from analysts who swear the technology is beyond what speech recognition has been able to achieve to date.
I have spoken to the founders of SpinVox and SimulScribe and they tell me their technology is as safe as e-mail which can be intercepted and read. They have a point. The concern some people have is that operators reading your voicemail could theoretically steal personal information, etc.
I will keep you posted as the story unfolds.