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Google Voice Transcriptions to Improve With Your Help

Google I/O may have come and gone without a single mention of the status of Hangouts and Google Voice merging together, but on Friday, we learned from a Google Voice team member that the service isn’t dead just yet. In fact, Google plans on improving it, at least on a voicemail transcription front.

For those new, voicemail transcription is the automated service that attempts to transcribe voicemails into text so that you can read them at anytime without actually having to play the message aloud. Google Voice has been notoriously average with its transcription, so this move to improve it makes a lot of sense, even if the product’s life seems to be up in the air. 

If you use the Google Voice web interface at all, you should see a pop-up the next time you refresh that asks if you are interested in helping improve voicemail transcription. You can either say “yes” or “no,” so we aren’t talking about an opt-out program here. If you do opt-in, Google reminds you that automated systems remove account information before analyzing voicemails and that no human will ever read or listen to your messages.

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You can learn more about Google Voice transcriptions at this support page. To opt-in or out of transcription improvement, head into the Gear icon>Settings>Voicemail & Text and then check or uncheck the box for “Allow automated Google systems to analyze your voicemail messages to help improve transcription quality.”

  • Google does what it wants when it wants. As for free services I just realize I am the product not the customer. donating your VM reinforces that fact. Give google your data so they can use it for their purposes…but they wont tell you what that purpose is. Google rarely supports anything with employees unless you pay. end of story. And with voice you cant buy paid support. Google voice will just end up being an orphan. I know how this turns out. Saw it with other legacy “software”.

    • JMonkeYJ

      I really wish they would let me pay for Voice instead of abandoning it if it came to that. I’d definitely pay $5/month or so for its functionality, and other power users probably would, too. But it doesn’t seem like Google generally operates like that.

  • creed

    “Google Voice has been notoriously average with its transcription.”

    I think you are being very generous with this statement. In my experience, the translations have been awful, maybe comical at best.

  • Al

    Should I stay or should I go. Oh the number of texts I have missed because there is no MMS and group texts. I am on the brink of moving off GV. No announcement at I/O was the (next to) last straw. Anyone else?

  • scastro87

    Hope this helps because the transcriptions I get are completely unusable and 80-85% inaccurate.

  • Shagnscooby

    I’m with TMobile and they don’t allow Google Voice for voicemail. If I switch are there any other carriers that don’t allow it? I was thinking of the new Cricket.

    • mgamerz

      Works fine for me with T-Mobile. However you have to let G-voice pick it up, rather than have T-Mo forward it to them for you, so have T-mo turn it off, and give out only your G-voice number. Your T-mo number will not have voicemail.

  • Daistaar
  • sonicemerald

    thanks google, now nobody will call me.

  • inklenotrump

    so here’s a question. If I’m an iPhone user and I have hangouts that can make phone calls – what number do people see when I ring out? Is it my google voice number?

    Secondly, let’s say that works well enough for me. What’s to stop me from getting a data only cell plan and circumventing the telecom’s voice charge tier (basically possible on T-Mobile prepaid).

    Thirdly, if I can do the 2nd thing on an iPhone and not android – that would be a pretty big incentive to use an iPhone vs. an Android phone for the incredibly cheap (me).

    fourth, perhaps it’s this realization at the top of the food chain (service providers) that is preventing Google from doing this. If ATT says – hey if you guys make it so our users can circumvent one of our biggest and most established (oligopolistic) fees, we’re not going to sell your phones.. I wonder if that conversation has happened a bunch of times.

    • mgamerz

      The first 3 are true (#1 is your google voice number). Your 4th point is likely the holdup, as Hangouts is in the Gapps package that google sells and has to be installed on every new phone now. Carriers around the world are probably upset they have a phone with built-in voice-data circumvention, as well as “legal” requirements, I guess. Or however they name their spying 🙂

  • Alan

    During the Material Design Motion session at IO, they did a small section on Chrome OS. The app launcher showed new icons (I believe) for Google Voice and Google Talk. Don’t know what this says about the Hangouts/Voice merger, but thought it was odd to see a new Google Talk icon.


  • Paul

    I vote for hangouts/voice integration to be on the vaporware list for 2014!

  • Stinker

    This isn’t news. They’ve been doing it all along. They also had Goog-411 7 years ago that was built for the sole purpose of mining voice. And every time you type by voice and make a correction they are supposedly using that data to improve voice-to-text. But you know what? It still sucks ass and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

    • GVoice

      I use voice to text all the time and it always gets 25% of what I say wrong unless I speak with a monotone robotic voice, which sounds weird. But Voice to text is still way faster than actually typing out a text message.

    • Cory S

      It seems to be way better on L. I don’t know if they tweaked the microphone or what, but I’ve been really impressed.

  • Caleb Martin

    This feature has actually existed for several years, but it was a case-by-case thing instead of an all-or-nothing option — on each transcribed voicemail it would ask “Was this transcription helpful?” and you could say yes or no, and then it would ask if you wanted to “donate” the message to Google so they could use it to improve transcriptions.

  • The assistance is needed and there is much that can be brought.

  • Daniel Maginnis

    I think this has been an opt in for years. Unless i imagined doing this when I got my droid.

    • Cory S

      You could always individually submit voicemails that a human could analyze…but never all of them automatically.

  • hangtime

    I was really hoping for a big Hangouts demonstration at IO, where they would start a hangouts call on their laptop’s chrome browser and then seamlessly switch over to their phone during the call, to take the conversation on the go. And then show us all of the sweet integration features that they’ve been working on for the app, like improved voicemail and VOIP, ect. My dream, sadly, never came true.

    • James

      You and everybody else, my friend 🙂

  • moelsen8

    wouldn’t surprise me if someone actually forgot to flip the “on” switch to this feature back in 2010 and google is just realizing it now.

    • James

      Ha, exactly. Though I’d like better transcriptions, this is really nothing worth getting excited over.

  • James

    It was over a year ago that the integration of Hangouts and Voice was announced. We have heard nothing meaningful since then. In the meantime, Voice still can’t do MMS, Group Messaging, or VOIP on Android.

    Improving voicemail transcriptions the least of my concerns.

    • Cory S

      it’s the only part of the service that is profitable for them (improving voice recognition). Kind of insulting that’s the only part of it they seemed concerned with.

      • James

        Right. To me this move is more about Google wanting another data source to improve speech recognition for itself. Any benefit to consumers seems secondary. Who knows when voicemail improvements will actually be seen.

      • James

        Although, I would say that creating Hangouts as a true one stop communication stop by adding Voice features would attract more users, and thus be a smart move.

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    • Mickey A Valentine

      I get MMS in fact I was scared something went wrong. Sure it sends me a gmail but I’ll take what I can get without carrier SMS/MMS service.

  • Josh Martin

    Don’t care. Hangouts integration is a must. I hope they realize how much all the users are expecting this to happen. Especially since they told all the other apps “illegally” using Voice to make calls over wifi to remove the functionality. Would really like something like GrooveIP.

    • Shane Redman

      I think they’ll make a big deal of it in the fall with new hardware.

      • James

        I’m done speculating. There have been so many seemingly logical “maybe it will happen then” moments over the last year that it’s worthless to guess at this point. The bottom line is, Google’s treatment of Voice has become a joke at this point.

        • Shane Redman

          Only thing I use GVoice for is VM, so this article excites me. Not really worried about the other stuff personally, but I can see why it should be done.

          • James

            The thing is, without knowing the future of Voice (how, when, and if integration will happen) this announcement means little. It will take time for actual improvements to be seen. At best, this is a bandaid rather than a cure for a patient whose prognosis is unknown.

    • Cory S

      I don’t think it’s happening anytime soon. They released the first update in forever on the Voice app adding emoji support. Why update an app thats being EOLed?

    • p0k3y

      Yes, it sux esp since GrooveIP doesn’t support ART, which will be the standard for L.. So when that hits, GV would be half dead to me. Time to port my number away…

  • Sam

    Yes Yes yes