Why Human Transcriptions Are Still Relevant Today In A World Of AI

Why Human Transcriptions Are Still Relevant Today In A World Of AI

If the COVID-19 vaccine taught us anything, it’s that the biotech research industry is progressively advancing at a fast pace. While this signals a positive growth in how quickly we can develop new technologies, it also spells a recurring challenge for research firms. How do you maintain research quality and workflow efficiency at the same time?

83% of executives consider artificial intelligence as their top priority in their business strategies.


More organizations and professionals are transitioning from human transcriptions to AI transcriptions, with many believing that the latter offers superior speed, convenience, and ease of use.

While AI transcriptions may provide such benefits, they’re much more limited than they seem — so much so that human transcriptions still are a viable choice over them.

Here’s why you should still consider human transcriptions today in an AI world:

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence Audio Transcription

Artificial intelligence audio transcriptions, or AI transcriptions, have been changing the way many businesses work. Healthcare, finance, entertainment, and other industries use AI transcriptions to streamline their workflows.

In fact, according to a 2023 study published on Forbes Advisor, 53% of businesses are already utilizing AI tools to improve productivity — and chief of these tools is AI transcription. A 2020 study by Statista also found that 64% of organizations in market research and E-learning industries use speech-to-text automated transcriptions.

AI transcription software is a tool specialized in generating transcripts from audio or video files. While automated transcription software has existed before, AI transcription tools aim to improve on it by using improved natural language processing and speech recognition to process dialogue more thoroughly, especially in the face of transcription challenges such as dialects and accents.

Businesses use AI transcription software for three main reasons:

  1. Speed - AI transcriptions generate transcripts significantly quickly. For market researchers and professionals in other industries, this is a substantial benefit.
  2. Cost savings - Many organizations find AI transcriptions more cost-efficient than human transcription services, as human transcriptionists typically charge more based on the audio recording length.
  3. Compliance - Many AI transcription tools are designed to immediately halt the transcription process when they detect sensitive client information within the audio recording. This helps organizations comply with regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.

Businesses choose AI transcriptions over human transcriptions because of their overall speed and cost efficiency. However, while automated transcriptions have evolved significantly with the development of artificial intelligence, they still have substantial pitfalls that put human transcriptions ahead.

The Grim Reality Of AI Transcripts

AI robot with headset trying to emulate success of human transcriptions
Android AI robot wearing a headset and working in the office: artificial intelligence, business and automation concept

AI transcriptions have taken the business world by storm because of their ability to improve productivity. However, when viewed through a different lens, AI transcripts are significantly more limited than they seem.

Before you make the transition from human transcriptionists to AI, consider these critical limitations of AI transcriptions:

Poor Accuracy

Despite their development, AI audio transcriptions still fall short in accuracy compared to human transcriptions.

Consider the following factors:

  • Complex audio - Background noise, crosstalk, similar voices, accents, and dialects are common speech elements that can throw off transcription AI.
  • Specialized content - Industry-specific jargon, terminology, and acronyms cause inaccuracies as most automated transcription software is trained only in the general vocabulary.
  • Poor audio quality - Muddled audio or audio with speakers talking away from the microphone makes speaker association challenging for software.

Inability To Understand Context

Most automated transcription tools lack the ability to understand the context of the discussion in the audio recording. This becomes apparent when you need a specific type of audio transcription. For instance:

  • Pure verbatim transcriptions - AI transcription tools may omit filler words and utterances that are crucial to particular professions or use cases (e.g., stutters and incomplete sentences may be necessary for legal transcription)
  • Smart verbatim transcriptions - While many automated transcription software programs perform well in producing smart verbatim transcriptions, they may still misinterpret some words or terms due to complex audio.
  • Non-verbatim transcriptions - Some tools may offer discussion summary features. However, they’re unable to produce accurate non-verbatim transcriptions (i.e., transcriptions that paraphrase the audio dialogue without omitting vital information)

Data Privacy Concerns

AI transcription tools often share your audio recordings with third-party services for cloud storage, grammar correction, and other functions. If you’re handling sensitive data, this can raise potential concerns with security and privacy.

Coupled with speaker association issues, AI transcription software may not be the best option when transcribing audio with sensitive data.

Lack Of Flexibility

Human audio transcriptions are highly flexible and adaptable. When you provide formatting instructions to professional transcribers or human transcription services, they will follow your specifications when creating your transcript.

On the other hand, AI transcriptions have limited flexibility. Some tools allow you to specify particular elements like timestamp formatting. However, the options are far less versatile than what you can achieve with human transcriptions.

Implementation And Maintenance Challenges

AI transcription tools may offer speed and convenience, but only when you take the time to implement and train them throughout their usage.

Implementation requires time and expertise to integrate into your workflow. Various factors come into play, such as compliance concerns, process modifications, and coordination (especially when working with a team).

Even when implementing AI transcriptions into your tool, you must continuously acclimate them to your use case. This involves constant training and adjustment so that the tool's algorithms can capture technical jargon and terminologies that may frequent your audio recordings.

Why Human Transcriptions Still Prevail

Happy professional transcriber giving a thumbs up while making human transcriptions

Despite the swift evolution of audio transcription AI, it still falls behind human transcriptionists in many regards. The power of the human ear puts professional transcribers far above what AI tools can do, so much so that you can expect human transcriptionists to still exceed transcription AI in quality, accuracy, and speed.

To give you a deeper understanding of why human transcriptions are still superior to AI transcriptions, here are five reasons you should know:

1. Understanding Context And Complexity

Human language is highly complex, with a rich network of cultural backgrounds, nuances, and sentiments.

Consider the following factors:

  • Homographs - Type of homonyms referring to words that have the same spelling but have different definitions and pronunciations
  • Homophones - Type of homonyms referring to words that sound the same but have different spellings and definitions
  • Idiomatic expressions - Non-literal terms or statements whose definitions are rooted in imagery and context
  • Figures of speech - Onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, anaphora, and other types of expressions

While AI transcription tools are generally trained for everyday human conversations, only humans can understand complex human dialogue best.

Other examples of homonyms that AI tools often struggle with include:

they’re / their / theretear (from crying) / tear (hole)
your / you’rebass (fish) / bass (type of guitar)
were / where / wearwind (air) / wind (tuning a clock)
to / toorecord (to store into video, text, etc.) / record (stored information)
than / thenwound (injury) / wound (past tense of the verb “wind”)
tear / tierclose (nearby) / close (concluding something)
real / reelbow (weapon for shooting arrows) / bow (gesture of greeting)
base / bassdove (past tense of “dive”) / dove (bird)

2. Dealing With Nuances In Human Speech

AI transcription tools work best when the human dialogue in the audio recordings is clear and uninterrupted. However, nuances such as accents and inflections are challenging for them to decipher. For human transcriptionists, it’s natural.

Human speech is highly dynamic, containing nuances such as:

  • Accents - The way specific ethnic groups speak
  • Dialects - Subcategory of languages and accents in specific regions or social groups
  • Inflections - Changes in a person’s pronunciation of specific words or overall vocal intonation
  • Loudness of voice - Varying volume levels of how people speak in a single conversation or even sentence

Professional human transcribers are trained to adapt all nuances in human speech, causing far fewer headaches than AI transcribers.

3. Navigating Crosstalk, Interruptions, And Other Complications

The human ear is used to dealing with audio complications like:

  • Crosstalk - People talking over each other usually cause speaker identification issues in AI transcriptions.
  • Stutters and filler words - Human transcriptionists can easily include or filter out filler utterances, depending on whether the transcription is smart or pure verbatim
  • Interruptions - When speakers interrupt each other, professional transcribers know precisely which words belong to whom.
  • Coughs and other noises - Human transcriptionists can filter out coughs that may occur during a vital point in the discussion so that every vital detail is captured.

Such complications are far more common in audio recordings than you may think. Due to these elements, AI tools may generate transcripts with many inaccuracies, which may be fatal to specific professions where precision is vital.

4. Having Domain-Specific Knowledge

Some transcription AI tools may be trained in terminologies and vocabularies specific to industries or fields of study. As a whole, however, they often struggle with niched jargon. In contrast, some human transcriptionists specialize in particular subject matters, including:

  • Legal - Latin terms, laws, and processes in court or law
  • Medical - Names of diseases, tools, and healthcare processes
  • Biotechnology - Scientific processes and names of species
  • Academic - Subject matter terminologies and jargon

Even if a transcriber lacks specialization in a field, they can read up on the subject. This is vital for catching up with audio recordings that include niched terminologies.

5. Managing Sensitive Content

Sensitive or private data is a crucial matter when it comes to audio transcriptions. Due to the consequences that may ensue when the data is disclosed, human transcription services take the utmost care when transcribing audio recordings with sensitive content.

Workflow and security policies are implemented to ensure that professional transcribers actively protect private data in audio.

Unlike AI tools, human transcribers can redact personally identifiable information (PII) and, in the process, ensure that sensitive data is adequately protected.

What You Should Look For In Human Transcription Services

cropped view of recruiter holding photo with man in suit

If you’ve decided to use human transcription services, congratulations! You’ve chosen speed, versatility, and reliability to improve your workflow.

With that said, not all human transcription services are the same. To ensure the best possible results, you should identify a service that has the following elements:

  • Accuracy and speed - Fundamental skills that every professional human transcriber should have
  • Flexibility and adaptability - Being able to follow specifications for custom formatting
  • Industry knowledge - Possessing industry-specific knowledge (not necessarily expertise) that helps them identify key jargon
  • Can research efficiently - Looking up information on unfamiliar topics on the fly to identify key terms in audio recordings
  • Communication skills - Keeping an actively open channel of communication with you to ensure the smooth flow of the transcription process

Another factor you should consider is choosing individual human transcribers or human transcription service providers. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Individual human transcribers may be suitable for small, single gigs because they offer individualized services at affordable rates. However, their capabilities can become limited with consecutive organizational projects at a larger scale, especially with audio recordings that are highly niche. Also, not all transcribers are well-versed with regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA. They also may not have the security systems in place to protect your data.
  • Human transcription service providers are highly flexible, versatile, and fast at creating multiple audio transcripts for various industries. Some transcription services, such as TranscriptionWing, offer a client-specific platform with intuitive features that vastly improve your workflow. For Example, ListenLink is a valuable feature that places hyperlinks on unintelligible terms in the transcript that lead you to a specific part of the audio recording for you to listen to. 

If you plan to integrate transcripts completely into your general workflow, human transcription services are the way to go.

The Best Of Both Worlds: AI-Assisted Human Transcription

Despite AI transcriptions' limitations, the fact that AI tools significantly improve productivity in every regard still rings true. While human transcribers' accuracy, flexibility, and adaptability are sufficient, they can be even better.

How? By combining human transcription expertise with AI technology.

AI’s efficiency can bolster the accuracy, attention to detail, and nuanced understanding of skilled human transcriptionists. The result is a much quicker creation of audio transcripts that achieve the highest standards of quality and accuracy and comply with data regulations and client specifications.

For the best versatility, choose human transcription service providers that offer fully human transcripts while also being able to “clean up” pre-made automated transcriptions for higher accuracy.

AI technology has revolutionized the way we approach our work. However, despite its tempting impact, the human touch still reigns supreme.

Human transcriptions still retain their relevance amid their AI counterparts. Their versatility, flexibility, accuracy, and efficiency put them a cut above AI transcription tools. The ideal transcription solution, of course, is AI-assisted human transcriptions that combine the efficiency of artificial intelligence with the accuracy and critical listening capabilities of human expertise.

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