It takes about 3 minutes to transcribe a message, which isn’t an unbearable length, depending on urgency. SimulSays notifies that you’ve got a new message before it’s been processed, so if you’re expecting a call from someone, you can listen to it right away if you’re in a rush. As for the quality of the transcription, it’s safe to say the technology’s still have a ways to go. When words are unintelligible, you’ll get some question marks, but what hurts the experience more is when words are misinterpreted, and you end up having to listen to the original message anyway, killing the point of having the whole thing set up in the first place. We found that the translation software leaned towards typically-used phrases like “meet me”, “talk to you later”, “call me” and the like. For example, one message transcribed “have you had anything to eat” as “how you can reach me”. To be fair, the message was spoken at the same speed you would normally speak, and in our experience SimulScribe is fairly accurate when the message is clearly enunciated. So the real question is, can you trust your callers to listen to the nice robot lady who tells them to “speak slowly and clearly”?
SimulScribe gets major points for originality. Spinvox is the only thing that we’ve seen remotely like it, and even then, SimulScribe is more about transcribing incoming rather than outgoing information. SimulSays, although still in beta and has a few more tweaks to go before its January launch, shows a lot of promise and will do well to really anchor the service on your BlackBerry. Despite having an innovative product and a clean interface, the transcription technology still needs work in order to be a viable replacement for voicemail. One thing Google does to refine its translated pages is to let users make their own transcriptions, which SimulScribe could do in time; the more you correct SimulScribe, the more it learns and improves in quality.
A pipe dream maybe, but there are some pretty exciting possibilities a product like this opens up. It’s a good start and a decent buy as is, but your mileage will vary depending entirely on the people who leave you messages and how clearly they speak. For now, we’ll give SimulScribe a 3.5 Robotic Ladies out 5 – once the transcription gets refined and SimulSays packs a few more features, we would be looking at a 4. If this sounds like something you’d like to give a shot, you can pick up a free 30-day trial exclusively from BlackBerry Cool.