Web APIs (Application Programming Interface) allow us to send data to a remote service and get a result back. Machine learning tools and Cognitive Services like speech-to-text and image recognition are mostly online APIs. Trained machines can be integrated into apps, but in general these services operate through an API.
The big advantage is that they keep getting better, without the local developer getting involved.
Nearly two years ago I wrote of my experience with SpeedScriber*, which was the first of the machine learning based transcription apps on the market. At the time I was impressed that I could get the results of a 16 minute interview back in less than 16 minutes, including prep and upload time. Usually the overall time was around the run time of the file.
Upload time is the downside of of web based APIs and is significantly holding back image recognition on video. That is why high quality proxy files are created for audio to be transcribed, which reduces upload time.
My most recent example sourced from a 36 minute WAV, took around one minute to convert to archival quality m4a which reduced the file size from 419 MB to 71MB. The five times faster upload – now 2’15” – compared with more than 12 minutes to upload the original, more than compensates for the small prep time for the m4a.
The result was emailed back to me 2’30.” That’s 36 minutes of speech transcribed with about 98% accuracy, in 2.5 minutes. That’s more than 14x real time. The entire time from instigating the upload to finished transcript back was 5’45” for 36 minutes of interview.
These APIs keep getting faster and can run on much “heavier iron” than my local iMac which is no doubt part of the reason they are so fast, but that’s just another reason they’re good for developers. Plus, every time the speech-to-text algorithm gets improved, every app that calls on the API gets the improvement for free.
*I have’t used SpeedScriber recently but I would expect that it has similarly benefited from improvements on the service side of the API they work with.