The Battle of Transcription: Human Expertise vs. Machine Efficiency

Ever wonder what happens if we compare human expertise vs. the machine? Since time immemorial, human transcriptions have aided the conversion of spoken words into written text. However, more and more new technologies, such as ASR, are becoming available for automated transcription. Some people think manual transcribers are slowly becoming obsolete due to this development, while others say AI transcription’s accuracy is far from that of professional human transcription

So, let’s explore the differences and see which one reigns supreme. 

In this article, you’ll learn that:

  • Human and machine transcription have strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different scenarios and requirements.
  • Human transcriptionists excel in accuracy, understanding context, and handling complex audio, while machine transcription offers speed, cost-effectiveness, and 24/7 availability.
  • When choosing between human and machine transcription, consider factors such as the required accuracy level, turnaround time, budget, and the type of audio.

What Is Human Transcription?

Human transcription is performed by a skilled human transcriptionist (either freelance or working with a transcription service provider), turning your spoken audio or video into written text. 

These professionals know their craft, are experts in grammar and punctuation, and can handle different accents and speaking styles.

A human transcriber’s job doesn’t end with listening and typing. Each is tasked with catching all the details in a conversation: identifying speakers, indicating emphasis, cleaning and correcting grammar issues for edited transcripts, etc. 

Scenarios Where Human Transcriptions Are Crucial

Below are the most common cases or situations where human transcriptions are crucial.

ScenarioWhy Human Transcription is Best
Legal ProceedingsLegal accuracy is paramount. Human transcribers can ensure precise capture of legalese and terminology.
Medical DictationMedical terminology and nuances are crucial, requiring trained human transcribers for accurate healthcare documentation.
InterviewsCapturing speaker intent and nonverbal cues is important for interviews and is best done by humans.
Focus GroupsUnderstanding group dynamics and overlapping speech requires human expertise in focus groups.
Creative ContentPreserving the style and intent of creative content, like poems or song lyrics, is best left to human transcribers.
Highly Confidential InformationHuman transcription with robust security protocols is preferred for sensitive data with security concerns.

Pros & Cons Of Human Transcription

Human transcription has been the gold standard for decades as it offers a level of accuracy that machines strive to achieve. 

Pros

  • Better Accuracy: Professional human transcribers can recognize accents, background noise, and even technical jargon. They can provide 99% accuracy (depending on skill). This is especially helpful for legal proceedings, medical interviews, or research purposes since they require every word to be correct or as close to perfect as possible.
  • Understanding the Context: Unlike robots, human transcriptionists can grasp the meaning of a conversation. Sometimes, the speaker is humorous or sarcastic or sprinkles in cultural references in the discussion. Depending on their experience, human transcribers can identify and convey the intended meaning of the conversation, not only the literal words spoken.
  • Flexibility: Another advantage is that human transcriptionists can handle different audio formats. Professional transcriptionists can deal with low-quality recordings, overlapping speakers, and unfamiliar terminology since they can change their approach to fit specific needs.
  • Security: Hackers paint targets on the backs of AI platforms, resulting in data breaches. Further, automated solutions aren’t as 100% sealed as some would like to think. Even some human transcription services struggle to provide the security that many regulatory bodies require. CJIS and HIPAA compliance are tough to meet, requiring time, commitment, and resources. However, it is a mark of trust that no empty claim can match. So, it is best to look for service providers offering the highest security levels.
  • Better Quality Control: Compared to automated systems, reputable transcription service providers—powered by humans, of course—employ a strict quality control process to ensure accuracy and consistency. This quality control process includes multiple rounds of review and proofreading to catch any mistake in the transcript. 

Cons

  • Cost: As we all know, human transcription is a labor-intensive process, and therefore, it’s expectedly more expensive than automated options. The cost for human transcription services is between $1.50 and $5.00 per audio minute
  • Turnaround Time: This is one area where machine transcription can, on the surface, beat humans. However, Automated transcription is far from perfect and requires editing – which almost always negates the “initial savings.”
  • Listener Fatigue: Unlike robots, humans are bound to get tired. We can experience fatigue when listening to extremely long audio files. Depending on the stomach and the experience of the transcriptionist, fatigue can lead to errors. Automated platforms don’t have this physical limitation. 

What Is Machine Transcription?

Machine transcription is becoming a popular solution for many. It’s the process of using software to convert audio recordings into text. If you don’t know, it relies on speech recognition technology that analyzes audio recordings and then translates them into written words.

Although machine transcription tools are efficient, they still can’t match the accuracy of human transcriptionists, which is the most important factor for transcribed documents. 

AI, or machine transcription still struggles with accents, background noise, and jargon.

Pros & Cons Of Machine (AI) Transcription

AI transcription has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages despite the shiny, new-tech exterior. Let’s talk about them: 

Pros

  • Speed: This is arguably the biggest upside of automated transcriptions, as this software can churn out transcripts in minutes, a fraction of the time it takes a human transcriptionist. This is especially useful when immediate transcripts outweigh the need for extreme accuracy.
  • Cheaper: Since machines handle most of the work, automated transcription services are significantly more affordable than human transcription. 
  • Always Available: Unlike humans, these robots will stay energized despite being unable to understand your requests. These services operate 24/7, so you can upload your audio files for processing anytime, regardless of time zones or holidays. There is no need to wait for business hours!
  • Integration Capabilities: Many automated transcription services are currently integrated with video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Meet and project management tools that enable seamless workflow. If you have a good understanding of tech or are eager to learn it, you might be able to utilize this part well.

Cons

  • Accuracy: If speed is the upside of machine transcriptions, accuracy is its biggest downside. As we already know, AI struggles with many factors, which at best can reach 86% max accuracy, according to the most recent data.
  • Limited Functionality: Since these are machines, automated transcription focuses only on converting speech to text. This means features like speaker ID, timestamps, or your desired formatting will not be unavailable, and your transcripts will come as an unbroken stream of text that you have to edit. 
  • Security Concerns: Some cloud-based automated transcription services raise privacy concerns. This one is critical, and you should be careful when dealing with crucial documents. Uploading these audio files might be a risk if security measures are not in place, which is not always available to every automated service. 

Challenges In Accuracy: Machine Vs. Human Transcribing Audio Or Video Files

The best way to objectively compare human and automated transcription is to put them in situations that often arise during transcription. So, let’s take a look at how they do: 

Identifying Speakers

It’s a proven fact that machine transcription struggles with identifying between multiple speakers, especially when conversations are fast-paced, or people are talking over each other. 

If you feed anything other than a clear, single narrative recording to an automated service, it’s guaranteed to result in a messy transcript where it’s hard to tell who said what. 

On the other hand, human transcriptionists don’t have the same issue. They’ve honed their skills enough to distinguish between speakers based on their unique voice qualities and speaking styles—it’s human nature. They can label each speaker change within the transcript, so you know exactly who’s saying what. 

Understanding Slang And Industry-Specific Terms

Slang and informal language can be a head-scratcher for automated transcription software, even for unfamiliar human listeners. Although these machines rely on big old databases of words, they need help to grasp niche terminologies, especially in specific industries. This can lead to funny little misinterpretations—or worse, errors with significant consequences. 

On the other hand, professional transcriptionists are totally in tune with everyday language and can usually figure out the intended meaning based on context and cultural understanding. They have the capacity for understanding slang, which could result in a more accurate and natural-sounding transcript.

Understanding Context

The current AI software in the market is struggling to grasp the subtleties of human conversation, like sarcasm or idioms. 

Human transcriptionists, however, are well-versed in context clues and can catch on when someone is sarcastic, while a machine might take it at face value. They can read between the lines and interpret the nuances of a conversation, resulting in a more accurate transcript. 

Recognizing Proper Nouns

Background noise or unclear pronunciation can trip up automated transcription when recognizing names or brand names—this is based on personal experience, as we’ve tested it several times. This can cause errors and inconsistencies in the final transcript.

On the other hand, human transcribers have the knowledge and research skills to identify and correct misspelled proper nouns. They can easily double-check names or terms they’re unsure about, ensuring accuracy and proper referencing in the transcript.

Handling Heavy Accents

Automated transcription systems can have a really tough time with heavy accents, especially if they’re not used to them—this also applies to an average Joe who claims that transcribing is easy. This can lead to a transcript full of errors and hard to understand.

Human transcribers can be trained to handle a wide range of accents. They can adjust their listening approach and use their knowledge of phonetics to understand heavily accented speech, something AI isn’t yet capable of. 

Why Pick Ditto For Your Human Transcription Needs?

Below are some of the service features you can expect from Ditto Transcripts.

FeatureBenefit
AccuracyDitch the errors. Get transcripts with a mind-blowing 99% accuracy guarantee.
SpeedForget deadlines. Our turnaround times are lightning-fast, with options as quick as 24 hours.
ExperienceRelax, experts on deck. Our team of transcription wizards can handle any audio or video.
VersatilityWe speak your language. Transcribe legal, medical, academic, financial content and more!
AffordabilityDon’t break the bank. Get top-notch service at competitive prices.
ConvenienceUpload your way. Drag and drop, dial-in recording—your workflow, your way.
SecuritySleep soundly. Your data is safe with industry-standard security practices that meet CJIS, FINRA, and HIPAA guidelines.
Ease of UseNo tech headaches. Our straightforward instructions make getting started a breeze.
Free TrialTry before you buy. Sign up for a free trial and experience the Ditto difference.

Our Transcriptions May Help You With Your Business

If you’re looking for better transcription accuracy or overall service quality, it’s time to choose Ditto Transcripts. We’re serious when we say we can deliver 99% accuracy. Our team of specialized transcriptionists makes it possible for us to deliver the highest accuracy in the human transcription market.

Ditto Transcripts offers an alternative to automated transcription services with affordable pricing and fast turnaround times, which might not be real-time, yet is still lightning-fast compared to the competition. Of course, we prioritize data security and provide a user-friendly platform for your convenience. 

Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable services for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote.

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