The downward spiral of voicemail-to-SMS service SpinVox did not affect me until the company announced that it was stopping services to individual users. I’d benefited from this since its launch, and went on the hunt for a replacement.
VoxSciences, a British company that launched its service in 2008, has kept a low profile, but that looks set to change as individuals look to fill the gap left by SpinVox.
There are two services. Voicemail to SMS converts voice messages to text messages. Voice to Text converts voice messages to email.
VoxSciences uses an automated translation system it calls VERBS (Virtual Engine for Recognition of Basic Speech). This breaks a message into smaller sections and translates them. Any sections that VERBS has trouble with are passed to a human operator (a part of the system called ADVERBS*). Sometimes adjacent sections of a message are sent to a human too, in order to provide context. These human-transcribed sections are sent back to VERBS so it can learn from its mistakes and become more accurate.
Reading between the lines here, it seems as though the full text of a message should not finish up in the hands of a human operator. Unless, presumably, a message is very short and/or very garbled.
VoxSciences makes no bones about the fact that some data is processed outside the EU, although says that all its data is stored solely in the UK in a secure data centre.
The service is available month on month, with no contract or long-term signup. There is a free seven-day trial. After that, individuals can choose a voicemail-to-SMS package of 30 voicemails a month for £5 or 65 voicemails a month for £10. Voicemail to email only is charged at a rate of 12.5p per 160 character unit. Emails can have an MP3 of the voicemail attached to them if you’d like that. Corporate clients are also catered for, but pricing isn’t detailed at the web site.
You can get to voicemails via the VoxSciences web site. Enter your phone number and a PIN and you can make various settings, and also view transcriptions of text messages and listen to (and save) MP3s of those messages. You can personalise your greeting message direct from your mobile.
I’ve been using the system since late March, and so far it has impressed. With transcribed voice messages sent to both SMS and email I get two opportunities to catch up. If you think voicemail to email is a step too far, I’ve found that it can be handy to have a copy of an important voice message in email for future reference.
The system seems fast. With test messages I’ve left for myself, the conversion process takes just a couple of minutes at most. I’ve tried leaving myself mumbled voice messages and created voice messages while standing right next to a radio with a broadcaster blaring out loudly and even those were delivered quickly and with a high degree of accuracy. Messages from third parties have also been pretty accurate — certainly good enough for me to get their complete meaning.
There is a free trial offer at the VoxSciences Web site if you want to test it with a single message right now.
* Don’t you just love acronyms?