Getting to grips with automatic transcription in Design Research

Picture of a robot reading a book

The volume of remote research being undertaken has increased substantially as a result of the global pandemic. Because we have been doing more of this type of work we have become more demanding of the tools we use. One of the benefits of this is that we are now using tools, like Zoom and Teams that have built in automatic transcription.

One of the modern-day challenges of running design research is that budgets rarely run to allowing two-consultants on the project. Where there are two, one can moderate whilst the other takes notes and so the pot of data for analysis is very large. With only one consultant they have to make notes while they are moderating and then review the video sessions afterwards.  Time is always at a premium and so this is always a challenging part of the process.

So wouldn’t it be great if the recording software was able to provide an automatic transcription service? That would mean the consultant wouldn’t need to make notes at all and could then mine the rich transcription data after the sessions.

Well that is exactly the hypothesis we tested recently using three different tools with some, sadly, disappointing, but quite funny results.

With Descript:

[moderator name]: [time] Yeah, here we go. So first question for you. Um, what’s your role? What do you do and which industry are you in?

[Participant n]: [time] Hey, I’m a chef walking forward

With Zoom:

[moderator name]: [time] yeah here we go so first question for you what’s your role, what do you do in which industry are you in.

[Participant n]: [time]: A shadow working for the systems.

With Condens:

[moderator name]: [time]: Yeah. Here we go. So, first question for you, what’s your role? What do you do? In which industry are you in?

[Participant n]: [time]: I am a shop over working for the systems on God.

All three seem to have coped pretty well with the question. However, when we get to the response they all fall far short of what we need to be a working solution.

We will carry on trying as this would be a really valuable addition to our tool kit. We are also looking at other languages, as we carry out research all over the world and automatic transcription to translation is a really interesting area also.

If you would like to know more about our progress with automatic transcription in English and other lanmguages, ring us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at

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