Sam Liang is one of the key innovators behind the scenes in Silicon Valley. He is one of the founders of Google's location services and is on the Google Blue Dot patent. He is the co-founder and CEO of Otter.ai, which specializes in live transcription services.
Sam Liang's Background
Sam Liang earned his Ph.D. at Stanford in hopes of becoming a professor. While in school, he met many smart people working on startups, which influenced him to go that route. He went on to work at Cisco, worked on a startup, and then joined Google for four years.
While at Google, Sam and his team created the Blue Dot and started the Google location server project, which became location services. While we use these services daily, we often don't think of the behind the scenes work that goes into them. When the technology first started coming out, everyone was so amazed by it. Now the market has matured to the point where it is an intrinsic part of daily life.
While Google maps have gone through this process, AI and speech recognition is currently going through it. Even though voice recognition and automatic transcription systems have advanced a lot, there is still more to come.
The Birth of Otter.ai
When using Alexa or Siri, you ask a question or give a command, often taking little time. When using Zoom or similar platforms, there are multiple speakers engaged in a potentially more extended interaction. People often have different accents, speaking styles, and background noises. The technology doesn't handle complicated conversations effectively.
In 2010, we started transcribing the Killer Innovations show using an offshore transcribing service. Even though a human was transcribing it, they couldn't get it right. Human involved transcribing required a lot of effort to go back and clean up the mistakes on my team's part. After a while, we stopped using this service for the show.
For Sam, he realized this was a problem when he always forgot things from meetings. Eventually, he brought a team together to find a solution to this problem. He surveyed the top transcribing technologies of the day and was disappointed by their low quality. The survey opened up an opportunity for his team to create something better.
Transcribing your Brainstorm
I am a customer of Otter.ai and am impressed with the transcription accuracy no matter the environment. I use it while in my studio as well as on my phone for capturing notes. Otter offers a system that adapts to people's natural speaking styles automatically. It works in the background no matter how many people are speaking or the speed of their words. Many people use Otter when they are in restaurants, driving a car, or walking their dog. Otter.ai has created a new feature that allows the software to hook up to Zoom when used automatically.
When using the software, you can highlight important things that were said to remember them. For those wanting to skip meetings but still get the information, Otter offers that chance as well. The software also identifies the speakers at the end of the session to connect them with what was said. Otter has released a product that allows people to experience it for free. There are also pro and business versions of Otter for those interested in regular usage.
From what I've observed, people these days are hesitant when being recorded. As being recorded becomes more common, I believe the issue of concern will go away. I predict that it will get to the point where it will be rare not transcribing every meeting. The future of work is going to be through virtual meeting systems such as Zoom.
Currently, Otter is working on a lot of things both on the technology and product side. Different words, names, terminologies, and acronyms are a big focus at the moment. On top of that, they are working on better understanding conversations and their context.
About our Guest: Sam Liang
Sam Liang is the CEO and Founder of Otter.ai, an AI-powered live transcription and collaboration app. Before founding Otter.ai, Sam became CEO and Founder of Alohar Mobile in Palo Alto, which Autonavi and Alibaba acquired in 2013. Before that, Sam led the location platform team at Google on the patent for the “blue dot” in Google Maps. Sam has a Ph.D. from Stanford in Electrical Engineering and studied under Professor David Cheriton (first investor in Google and VMware).
To know more about transcribing your brainstorm through Otter.ai, listen to this week's show: Transcribing Your Brainstorm with Otter.ai | Interview with Sam Liang.