I Didn’t Write This Article. Otter Typed It For Me


No, we didn’t recently get our hands on a literate aquatic animal. Rather, we decided to automate the process of writing articles by taking Otter for a spin. Available for Android and iOS, Otter is developed by AISense Inc.

So what exactly is Otter?

Think of Otter as a note-taking app. Straight off the bat, this doesn’t sound too interesting, right? Well, if you’re in a meeting room and you’re taking notes, it might become a tad difficult to keep track of everyone who is sharing their opinions and views. This is where Otter comes to the rescue. By harnessing the power of machine learning, you can record your conversations through Otter and then proceed to generate a transcript from it.

Image Credits: CNET

There is no typist on the other side listening to every word as it is dictated. Rather, using artificial intelligence, you are able to get a full transcript available from any device once you have signed up for an Otter account.

Setting up Otter

This is a fairly straightforward process. Download the app from your respective app store and you will be guided through a setup process to teach Otter to recognize your voice. For optimal use, it’s recommended that you carry out the setup process in a place that is quiet with no background noise. This will allow Otter to record your voice and understand you better.

Setting up Otter

After the initial sentence, you will be asked to read a somewhat longer sentence. This is to help Otter understand you better and actually be useful for taking notes. Interestingly, the paragraph you read also explains the process that the app uses to capture and transcribe the text. Once you finish reading the paragraph, you’re ready to start using Otter.

Exploring Otter

The main interface of Otter is minimal but at the same time, also quite functional. The main interface of Otter contains 5 tabs. The Home tab is your primary dashboard and displays all your notifications. The Conversations tab will show you a list of all conversations that you record through the app. The middle tab is where it all goes down. This is where you can record all your notes so that you can process it later on.

The main tabs of the application

You can create and manage groups through the Groups tab. This also makes collaboration easier, especially if you’re using Otter to keep track of meetings and collaborative session. The last tab is the Settings tab which you can use to configure options for the app such as whether to upload files while only on Wi-Fi or not.

The main tabs of the app (cont’d)

You can also retrain your voice if needed to increase the accuracy of the app when taking notes. Other settings include rating the app, sharing it amongst your friends via a message, sending feedback if you have encountered any bugs, an About us page, and also an option to log out of Otto in case you want to keep your notes private.

Using Otter to take notes

This process is quite easy. Simply click the middle tab with the blue microphone icon and Otter will begin recording your conversation. You can pause recordings if required and even share a link with others so that they can have access to the file as well. Once you have taken the notes, simply press the Stop button and that session for taking notes is done.

This is where the really interesting step kicks off. Once you have completed taking notes, the app will take that audio file and upload it to its server. Here it uses a combination of AI and machine learning to transcribe the audio into text. Depending on how long the audio file is, and the speed of your internet connection, this process can take anywhere from a few seconds to even several hours.

Not bad for a first attempt

Once Otter has completed transcribing your file, it can be accessed by navigating to the Conversations tab. Clicking on a conversation will open that particular audio file and provide you with a transcribed version as well. While the initial transcribing was a bit tricky to complete due to the way I pronounce my words and my rather fast reading speed, I was articulated my phrases a bit more and also slowed down my speaking pace and was able to be more definitive results.

Otter makes it easier to find things in your notes

If you have done an interview by a recorder or Dictaphone, you would know how difficult it is to find a particular place in the interview. With Otter, you can simply search for a phrase or a keyword and the app will actually that word in the transcript and in the original recording as well. The text and the audio are actually synchronized. This means that you can jump to any point in the recording by just clicking the text.

Once set up properly, Otter can also recognize different speakers and separate the transcript by the speaker. It does so by breaking what is spoken into paragraphs. Each paragraph can also be manually assigned a speaker name. These names would then be used to increase the accuracy of the app. So the next time you take a recording, and the voice of the person speaking is already added, the app will take that person in the recording, making it easier for the person transcribing the conversation.

Recording a conversation via Otter

You can add, edit or remove speaker profiles in your transcripts, making it a lot easier to know who is talking so that you will always know who is talking. Since Otter uses cloud storage to store files, you don’t have to worry about your phone or tablet running out of space. In addition, once it starts to record, you can minimize the app and continue using other apps on your phone without interrupting your recording.

The text is broken into paragraphs based on when the speaker takes a break from talking. If you feel that the text in the paragraph is incorrect, it can be edited by holding down that particular paragraph and selecting the “Edit” option.

Is Otter the next thing since sliced bread?

Well, while the app is an otter-ly (pun intended) remarkable way to take notes, and it would certainly make collaboration easier because everything is easily documented, apps like Otter can raise a potential alarm. Why? Because of privacy. The privacy policy on the Google App store says that the information you record will be stored in your account is and will always be your own. We will never share your conversations with anyone. Your data is synced over an encrypted connection and stored in a secure cloud environment”.

It’s not always safe though

Despite this, there is still a chance that AISense can still access your recordings and listen to them without your consent and knowledge. Depending on what you’re using Otter for, this may not be a real concern. For example, if you’re using it to take notes for yourself about things you should do or you’re reciting a poem or an excerpt from a book, then there’s no real issue of privacy.  However, if you’re using it to keep track of an important meeting and a number of confidential or private matters are discussed, it might cause issues for privacy.

Image Credits: MIS Training Institute

That being said though, Otter has a number of useful applications. For starters, if you’re on the lookout for a new tool to help you keep track of what is said at meetings or interviews, you can make full use of Otter. Hands tied behind your back and you can’t type on your phone? You can use this app to take notes for yourself. Writing a new book and you can’t waste time writing stuff down because you’ll forget it? Otter to the rescue again, the app is free to use and works with almost all Android and iOS devices.



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