Ever get off the phone with someone and instantly forget what was said? New technology from pioneering company Call Trunk may just be the answer you’re looking for. We’ve been chatting with the people behind the service about the future of voice recognition, call recording, Siri and telephone privacy. If you enjoy the odd natter, and think it’s good to talk, you need to read this…
Call Trunk’s CTO Paul Murphy claims that his company is “a few years ahead” in its thinking. Why? Because it sees call recording as the new email. Sign up with Call Trunk and they’ll provide you with the means to record any phone call you make, be it on your mobile or via Skype, and back it up to the cloud.
As anyone who’s ever been longing for proof that they did or didn’t say something they shouldn’t have, that’s a godsend. “One of our founders got into a big fight with an airline and a credit card company,” says Murphy. “He called me up and said – it’s ridiculous that they’ve got recordings of these calls and I know they lied to me. It’s so difficult for me to do this, so we should build it.”
So they did. But the thing is, recording and storing the call is now the tip of the iceberg…
Searchable phone calls
“So, we started recording everything, and very quickly we realised that the usefuless of any recording is pretty short-lived,” continues Murphy. “You have to remember that you recorded it and remember what day it is and then go back, etc. Although we found it incredibly useful for dispute resolution, we really wanted to focus on the future. We didn’t want to lose context.”
The answer? “We went to some core technologies that we had available in house and realised that we could build a search engine on top of your conversations.”
And that’s exactly what Call Trunk’s new feature – ARGOsearch – is. “We’re able to do it because of our core technology. It’s a specialised database that extracts and indexes keywords from the audio files. Those are time-stamped keywords. Then we add meta-data – in the future we’ll add other metadata, such as contact names and geolocation.”
In other words, your calls are fully searchable. Search in your account for the word ‘technology’, for instance, and Call Trunk will show you every call that you or your recipient said that word it in, with a timestamped marker plonked into the playback bar each time. It’s scarily clever tech, but, well… Is it legal?
Privacy and legality
“We’re breaking the law every day,” jokes Murphy.
The law in the UK says you’re allowed to record a call, as long as you don’t share your recordings. But, as Call Trunk’s found, “there are lots of grey areas.” The problem is that the law is really outdated, thanks to technology moving faster than anyone had anticipated. “No one ever thought that anyone outside of a call centre or government body would be able to record calls. Our goal is to get out in front of the law and deal with the eventual changes that will happen.
“And people will want it to change,” Murphy insists. “Once a lot of people are recording their calls and thinking about it like any other document they create, they’re going to be annoyed that there might be a rule that prevents them from doing it.”
In the US, things are slightly different. “39 states work the same as the UK, but 11 require a background notification. You can turn that on, but I can tell you that not many of our customers do. Just like not many people respect the speed limit.”
And in terms of privacy? Call Trunk’s got your back: “The calls are attached to an account and each account has its own encryption. If people then decide to download or transfer them out of Call Trunk, the encryption ends and its their issue – they’re then relying on someone else’s security.”
It’s an impressive service, but where’s it headed? And how does this sort of thing tie in with what Apple’s doing?
Siri’s big problem
“Voice recognition technology advances very, very slowly.” says Murphy. “The fundamental science hasn’t really progressed in the last ten years. The only thing that’s changed is that the computers have gotten faster.”
So does that mean that Siri’s running on outdated tech? Sort of: “Siri uses Nuance,” Murphy explains. “We’re currently not, but we’ve done work with Nuance – we’re doing some pretty fundamental research with direct access with the scientists.”
He claims that the biggest problem facing voice recognition is accents. And getting round that problem, unfortunately, may never be truly achievable. “Right now our system is terrific with American English, and not so terrific with others, but we’re constantly putting in new technology to improve the back end.
“Within six months – by the time we come out of beta – the quality will be just as good everywhere, save some really unique cases like heavy Scottish accents. Everybody’s struggling with those.” Even Apple.
But then, even people can hear some things wrong. And, as murphy explains, that’s exactly the point…
The future of voice recognition
According to the team at Call Trunk, we’re at an exciting time for voice recognition. People are just figuring out how to “do really cool things” with it, but, as Murphy puts it, there will always be problems:
“Voice recognition technology will eventually be as good as humans are, but it’ll be faulty in the same way that we are, too.” He’s right, too: half way through the interview, Murphy misheard something we said. “You have to recognise the limitations of the technology and do the best you can. Apple has done a really good job with how you use it to input and we’re doing really good job with the output.”
“The automated technology is always going to get a few things wrong, but eventually you’ll trust it as much as you do a person.”
And eventually this technology will be everywhere; Siri’s got input covered, but output will be just as big: Call Trunk is in talks with mobile manufacturers and networks to try and remove the deliberate step currently needed to record a call:
“We want the calls to be recorded in a more natural way. A lot of call recording companies see that sort of thing as a threat, but an entire ecosystem is going to build up around this stuff. We believe that in the future, as the laws change, and as people’s perceptions change, it’ll be easier and easier to do.”
And that’s important for one main reason. “If everyone’s doing it, the social ugliness goes away. It’s like if I send you an email, we both have a copy – that’s the point that we’d like this technology to get to. We’re a few years ahead in our thinking, but the world will get there.”
So it would seem that, both in terms of input and output, voice recognition tech is here to stay and, unless you’ve got a thick Scottish accent, is only going to become a bigger and bigger part of our lives. Are you keen to have your calls recorded? Let us know your thoughts below.
Link: Call Trunk