The Court Reporter vs Speech Recognition and Artificial Intelligence

Court Reporter vs. Speech Recognition and Artificial Intelligence?

Recently, I did an interview with Mr. Henry Majoue, owner of Voice Automated a leader in speech recognition software. My main question -- in addition to getting into a little detail about the technology -- was to find out from his perspective if we court reporters need to worry about being replaced by computers some day... Here's the interview in its transcribed entirety:

Todd: Today is Monday, October 29, 2007 about 3:30 pm and I am here with Mr. Henry Majoue, owner and operator of several business. Henry, would you like to go ahead and give me a quick snapshot of your experience and who you are?

Henry: Yes, Todd. Thanks for having me for this interview. As you know, my name is Henry Majoue and I have a company called Voice Automated which I have ran for the past 12 years. We started as a distributor, developer and dealer for speech recognition software, and also I have part ownership in a Medical Transcription Company. Now, in the past 12 years the speech recognition technology has grown by leaps and bounds. It was primarily a market for people that were disabled and just could not use computers at all, but nowadays it has really changed a lot.

Todd: Well, how good is speech recognition currently? How good is the technology?

Henry: Well, it is being advertised at 99% accurate and the training time to actually create your -- each speech recognition you have to create what is called a voice profile and the user can dictate into a microphone plugged into a computer and see the words appear on the screen in real time, or they can do a recording on a digital recorder and then upload that recording for Dragon to then convert that into text. What we have seen is -- what's advertised as 99% accuracy after it has been used for maybe a few days, but in the beginning it does take a little bit for the program to really get used to all the different nuances of your voice and the way in which you dictate. So -- but I mean compared to just a few years ago -- I mean the technology has just -- I mean from a user perspective, it's like you can see the benefit right away. It is just so fluent and the way the words just roll up on the screen. Once you learn the command language for Dragon, you have really got something that will transplant or replace typing.

Todd: But given that it sort of needs to be trained, are there certain industries that the speech recognition technology as it stands today would lend itself to more? So would it benefit certain industries more than others?

Henry: Well, yes. What we have found is that, you know, if you have to make too many changes to the core technology, I mean it is designed to be used in a very specific way, and that is real time or what we will call batch transcription. And the two industries that we really feel are most prime for this type of technology are the medical and legal industries. Doctors, they have to create a note or a chart note everytime they see a patient. So doctors anyway are starting to adapt these programs called electronic medical record programs. They can point and click a lot of information into an electronic system about the patient, but there are just certain areas of the patient encounter that really are narrative and need to be dictated by voice, and that is where the speech technology comes in handy.

The other area is the legal industry, which just in the last year, I mean people have adopted Dragon, like techy attorneys have adopted Dragon years ago, but it is really now getting to the point where an attorney like a litigator, creating court documents, and things like that -- other types of pleadings and interrogatories -- different documents like that -- responses. It's really usable to be used on their own computer with themself dictating, because they can dictate at 120 words per minute, get a bunch of words out on the screen and then they can make edits to it. It really has helped them to streamline how they practice law. Another way that the attorneys use it is, like I mentioned before, in the batch method where they may be taking notes on a particular case on a digital recorder and then they can upload into computer. Then they have it transcribed. And then they can save those notes to the case file for later on. Now, where Dragon breaks down is obviously in multi-user environments.

Todd: Now, what do you mean by multi-user environment then?

Henry: Well, by multi-user environment, obviously what I have been talking about before is just usually the one-on-one scenario. It is just like one user dictating into a microphone typing the words that appear on the screen.

Todd: In a clean, noiseless environment where there are no interruptions going on, nobody is speaking on top of them?

Henry: Exactly. Like for instance, if you were just to turn on a microphone, click into Dragon in a court room and having like 20 people talk at the same time -- no way would it work.

Todd: Okay.

Henry: So, you know, a lot of people will call our company and say, I have got a scenario whereby I am doing corporate meetings, or large engineering companies will call and they really need somebody to make sure that all of the designs specifications are transcribed and documented in these big meetings, so as to alleviate liability and things like that, for what has been assigned and what has to be done. It would be great if Dragon could just listen to each individual person and then understand who was talking and who was not talking and when to start and when to stop transcribing. In any event, what I am saying is what people do not understand about speech recognition is that it is not artificial intelligence.

Todd: Gotcha. So, here is the million dollar question then -- as a court reporter, and I am asking this on behalf of all court reporters and the industry in general, I guess, do you see court reporters being replaced by speech recognition technology or artificial intelligence (AI) and if so, what is the timeframe?

Henry: Well, you know with AI, I don't see it on the horizon. People always talk about it being 5 years, 10 years away, but in my experience in the arena they usually double or triple those numbers. So, if I was a court reporter today, I would not be too worried about it.

Todd: Really?

Henry: I really wouldn't. Now, with that being said there are court reporters that are exploiting the technology. One category of court reporters that I have learned about in this business are called Stenomaskers. Are you familiar with those people?

Todd: Sure.

Henry: Because they just repeat everything that each person says, that is a one-on-one situation like we were talking about before. So, a Stenomasker can then take a file that they recorded and then run certain parts of it through Dragon and that may help them to speed up the typing, but yet still taking the skill and the intelligence of the Stenomasker much like the stenographer to be able to start and stop and delineate and determine who is speaking and when they are speaking.

Todd: Great. So, for all of those people who maybe haven't even plunged into the career of being a court reporter yet, would you recommend that they quit court reporting school or do they look elsewhere for a career choice? Given where speech recognition is with stenomasking and AI technology possibly maybe in the distant future, what would you say to those people kind of going through or exploring the career now?

Henry: Well, what I would tell them is that I wouldn't be afraid of the technology because if you can adapt the technology to what you are doing then go ahead and do so, but the important part of what I just said is that you can adapt to what you are doing.

Todd: Yes.

Henry: You still have to go to stenographer school. You still have to learn how to become a court reporter. Okay, those are things that you know, you are not just going to open up a box and its going to be capable of doing court reporting. You know what I am saying?

Todd: Yes.

Henry: You have to learn that yourself and then you can apply the technology to it. I will give you a good example. I have another business; it is a Medical Transcription Company. In the medical transcription company, we have employed professional transcriptionists that are very familiar with how medical transcription is done. There is content as well and style, and I am sure that court reporting documents have to be formatted in a specific way.

Todd: Yes.

Henry: Just like medical documents have to be reported in a specific format as well and it takes an intelligent court reporter and/or medical transcriptionist to be able to do that. So, it's just another tool really in their arsenal of things. You know, in the past, people have used, you know Quick Text or macro creators and things like that; this is just another tool in the arsenal to help the medical transcriptionist or court reporter do a better job. So, that's kind of a long way of answering your question. Do not be worried about the technology stealing your job.

Todd: Well, cool. That is awesome. I really appreciate your time and I don't have any more questions essentially. I think there will be a lot of happy court reporters out there. I think, the take-away point is so true, people don't need to be afraid of technology. People need to embrace it and apply it and exploit it to make careers and professions better.

Henry: Exactly. I could not agree with you more.

Todd: Well, I appreciate your time very much.

Henry: Thanks, Todd. I appreciate it.
Friday, May 15, 2015

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

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