Spinvox, the service that translates your voicemails into text messages, has raised a wheelbarrow-load of money from various top-drawer sources for international expansion. I like Spinvox and the company’s continued success shows that it’s clever to hang out where voice and data meet. Machine translation – especially in noisy environments like mobile – is hard so it’ll continue to produce opportunities. Until translation is an embedded function, until every operator offers it as a standard (and invisible) feature of voicemail, Spinvox will prosper.
The thing about Spinvox, though, is that I’m still pretty sure there aren’t any machines. People who’ve visited the firm will tell you that there’s a roomful of… well… people translating those messages. And any user will provide plenty of evidence from their own inbox of human fallibility in the call centre. I keep a small collection of genuinely hilarious Spinvox mistranslations.
From a work contact: “Hi Steve. Beats me in the arse. Please give me a call when you’re available”
From a BBC Manager I know vaguely (and whose name is not John Arthur): “Hi Steve. It’s John Arthur here. I do love you very much, though. Can you please give me a call”
From my wife: “Call ham Steve”
Also from my wife (whose name is Juliet): “Hi Chloey. This is Joey”.
If the heavy lifting at Spinvox really is still being done by people, why do they continue to talk about their awesome software? If the software is steadily taking over (which is the most likely explanation) where are these errors coming from: the software or the people? Speaking for myself, Spinvox’s comedy mistranslations are the main reason I continue to subscribe. I do hope they don’t get that software working too soon.