How AI Can Make Your Meetings Easier

Taking notes was dumb, anyway

Key Takeaways

  • Otter transcribes Zoom and Google Meet audio in real time.
  • The paid version can add live subtitles to Zoom calls.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine-learning can even recognize individual speakers.
A young adult listening to headphones in front of a laptop while taking notes.
YinYang / Getty Images

There are several advantages to working from home via Zoom: no commute, no pants required, and now, no need to take meeting notes

Otter transcribes Zoom and Google Meet meetings in real time, so you can just zone out and read it all later. Or, if you’re the pants-wearing type, then you can follow along and grab those transcribed notes as they happen. Otter isn’t the only tool making it easier to work with audio and video calls, but its advantage is that it works with the video-conferencing apps we’re all using from home. 

"Real time transcription, closed captioning, and AI assistant for meetings has been available in Cisco Webex for some time," Samuel Cordery, collaboration technologies expert and head of client experience at Cisco gold partner ITGL, told Lifewirevia Twitter, calling it, "Highly useful."


No More Notes

Now that so many of us are working from home, video calls are the most effective way for our employers to waste everybody’s time. Otter is an amazing tool to help get through them. It records audio, transcribes it live, in real time, and lets you search, clip, and highlight the results. There’s a new Chrome extension for recording Google Meet meetings, and there are apps for Mac, iOS, and Android.

Otter software shown on several smartphone screens and a laptop.

The app also can record conversations, and import recordings made elsewhere. That means you can transcribe recorded interviews, which is a huge deal for reporters.

Finally, A Good Use for AI

If you’ve ever had to sit listening to a recorded interview, pausing it while you try to keep up with the typing, you’ll know that transcription always has been a pain. But now, automatic transcription may be good enough that you can forget manually transcribing recorded audio.

Not only can these tools get clean text out of audio that is quite noisy—recorded using the voice memos app on your phone, for example—they even can recognize the voices of individual speakers. 

Otter is one example of these tools. It lets you generate meeting notes on-the-fly, and without having to actually take notes. It can also generate close to real-time subtitles, with obvious benefits. 

Another great piece of transcription software is Descript, which is a powerful app for editing podcasts. It transcribes your audio, and then links the text to the recording. You can cut, copy, paste, and delete the text, and it will automatically rearrange the audio to match.

"Automatic transcription is good enough that you can forget manually transcribing recorded audio."

This not only makes editing multi-person audio easy, it has some extremely useful side effects. For instance, you can search for common hesitation and filler words, like “um,” and so on. Then, you can remove them all in a single go, exactly as if you were working with text.

User Friendly

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other names for the same thing, and this is where they already are doing useful work. Whenever you open your photo library and see all your friends and family automatically organized into albums, that’s AI. Ditto for searches of your own photos: try searching on "snowman," or "breakfast," or "maps" to see results obtained by machine learning. 

AI is a hot buzzword for technology companies, but we’re already seeing the benefits. It’s far from perfect, but the best tools realize this, and give you something that it good enough.

Whereas using Apple’s Siri is an exercise in frustration, using tools like Otter, Descript, or the photo search built into your phone, you can quickly perform tasks that would be impossible, or way too time consuming, with almost no effort. Instead of trying to be too clever—like Siri—they get us most of the way to our goal, and we can do the small remaining bits of work required to reach it.

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