Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Voicemail Hell

What seems like years ago - in fact it was 2 years ago - I heard about a service called SpinVox that promised to translate voicemails into text messages. The idea of never having to listen to a voicemail again fired me up considerably. I hate the things, especially the long, rambling ones that people leave as they're driving somewhere; the poor souls have nothing to do but catch up on their calls so you end up with a baffling, unstructured message that seems (and often is) never-ending. Well, no more. SpinVox is available to all those who want it, right now. You can sign up for a free trial - one week or 50 messages - at their site. After that you'll pay upwards from £5 to have all of your messages sent to you either as text (hmmm, get enough of those already) or email (better still, you can forward the message back to the person who left it for you and give them the answer they need in the context of the message). Tests over the last week show that SpinVox does pretty well, even with difficult voices. It stumbles over surnames and seems very confused by the word "hospital" (don't ask), but I'd say it's 95% accurate, even with Wayne, my Brummie friend. FOr instance, here's the kind of mail you get (I've changed the names to protect the guilty): Alan, hi it's Joe. Alan just wanted to see if ya had availability on Fri, for us to get a few folks together to talk with Bob about what needs doing on the commercials & how that fits into the wider architecture with you, also want to pick your brains about how you wanted ___ to play into that. Might be worth talking about the ___ sorting ___ & focus on the required outputs You can see it's not quite perfect - and it's mostly smart enough to know when it doesn't get a word at all. Neatly, if you want to listen to the vm, it gives you a short code to hop straight to this specific message to save you having to sort through old ones. This is just such a good thing. I used to dread the end of the day, dialling up my voicemail and hearing that dreaded dis-embodied voice intone "you have more than 20 messages". Now I get them as they come, complete with the number they originate from (no more scribbling down numbers when I'm between places) and I can choose to respond by phone, email or text. You can bet that it will mostly be email or text though, so get used to not hearing my voice. Genius.

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