I am so impressed with the new Recorder app by Google.

As a journalist, I'm constantly recording conversations for interviews, but I also use the app to record memos to myself and even to record interesting things that family and friends say. All with their permission, of course.

Released just recently for the Google Pixel 4 smartphone (and older Pixel devices), the Recorder app can transcribe recordings almost instantly. In my tests, the final transcription appeared within seconds after doing a new recording. That is a major discovery for me, because I plan to now use this app for most of my interviews when they are in person as opposed to the Voice Memos app I normally use on an iPhone 11 Pro.

Sorry, Apple.

For each transcription, I can search within the text. Here's an example. Let's say I record a conversation with someone on the phone and we talk about the Johari window. OK, fine--I have mentioned this thought experiment a few times in my column. It's pretty cool. Years from now, I can do a search in the Recorder app and find every time I discuss the topic.

Of course, this applies to anything. I can search for every conversation about Minnesota winters, or the impeachment trials, or business advice for startups.

Yet, it gets much more interesting.

Because we're talking about Google here, the Recorder app also knows what is happening in the recording, and this occurs in real time. If you whistle or laugh, the app knows. Later, you can do a search to find whistling or laughing in all of your recordings. 

I tested multiple conversations and made another interesting discovery. The Recorder app knows when you are speaking and that this is information it should transcribe and mark as speech, and also when you are mumbling, coughing, or making other noises that are not speech. You might say this is the opposite of a bot like Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant in that you don't ask this app questions. It simply listens. And records. 

And, by the way, learns. I've read articles about how the Recorder app can analyze your recordings and suggest titles, and also how there are sound profiles for things like barking and whistling. I imagine the app will eventually know who is talking and in which language. It analyzes your speech every 50 milliseconds, for crying out loud. That's incredible.

It's rare when an app does something that makes me want to keep experimenting and trying new things, and yet also makes me productive and fits perfectly into my job.

Fortunately, Google is planning to release the app for other Android smartphones and, I'll venture a guess here, for the Apple iPhone. We'll all be waiting for that.

Update: Google sent me the complete list of items the Recorder app can identify as you record audio. Here is the full list for now, but I imagine it will improve:

Applause
Music
Speech
Whistling
Knock
Bird
Cat
Dog
Rooster
Laughter
Phone ringing
Didgeridoo










Published on: Dec 19, 2019
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