Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preliminary Review of Google Voice

A few weeks ago Google started sending invitations to sign up for their latest free tool, Google Voice. I, for one, was thrilled when my invitation arrived. I had requested an account over a year ago when Google had just bought up Grand Central, and had been waiting impatiently ever since. I immediately created my account, chose a phone number, and gave it to my husband to call me with.

Why was I so excited? Mostly, because of the main feature of Google Voice: phone routing. On any given day I may be in my office in Lisle, my office in Wheeling, at the Chicago campus or en route to one or the other. Between offices, home and cell- I have four phone numbers. But I can just give people my Google Voice phone# and it will ring all four of those phone numbers at once. My Google Voice number is attached to me, not to any particular device. Wherever I am, I pick up. This is great for a husband who can’t remember where I’m working that day, for giving to daycare workers who might need to reach me quickly, and for giving to co-workers who I want to be able to reach me easily.

It gets fancier than that. You can create contacts and then choose which phones ring, depending on who is calling. For example, I would not want my home phone to ring when work contacts are calling. Some contacts you can send directly to voice mail! Other features include:

  • Record calls
  • Embed audio from recorded calls or voice mails into other websites
  • Automatic voice mail transcription
  • Block certain callers
  • Free text messaging
  • Free conference calls

Naturally, I’ve been trying to think of ways that Google Voice can be used in education. Here’s what I have thought of so far
  • A phone number to give to your students without having to give them your real phone number (great for adjuncts who don’t get NLU office numbers) Thanks to Carleen for this idea!
  • Record a phone interview and embed recording into Blackboard content page, blog, or other website
  • Use voice mail as a way to record audio for your course (you can do this with NLU voice mail as well)
  • Use automatic voice mail transcription as a way to quickly create 508-compliant content for your course (read below for more details).
I did some testing of the automatic transcription feature by leaving myself some voice mails. I spoke more clearly than I normally might and it did a fair job. However, transcriptions did not contain any punctuation and would need much correction. Here are some samples:

Pledge of Allegiance
hi pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states america and to the republic for which it stands one nation under guide and invisible with liberty and justice for all

Preamble to the Constitution
we had a people of the united states in order to former more perfect union establish justice insured domestic train cody provide for the thomas provide for the common defense promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves in our posterity and do or jane in establish this constitution for the united states of America

sally compare the to a summer's day and out our more lovely in more temperate

I’ve only had a couple of phone calls to my Google Voice account so far. I want to test it out a bit before I give the number to more people. Here are my notes so far:
  • Have had some issues with audio such as too quiet, breaking up a bit, and a faint echo. But it’s hard to tell whether this is Google Voice or my cell phone connection.
  • Rings several times for caller before it starts ringing on my phone.
  • Call-screening and call-presentation (asks user to state name and requires me to press 1 to accept) is on by default and is annoying- but can be turned off in my settings
Overall, I am still excited by it and I think as long as the audio quality turns out to be ok, it will be a useful tool for me.


LKGarcia NLU Librarian said...

Thanks for posting this, Michelle! Marisa and I were talking about Google Voice this week and don't have an invite yet. Useful comments!

Nima said...

Good review, I liked your thorough research into features and how accurate it works. Would enjoy an update later if you have time after you've tested it out more. Thank you. Nima