Browsing audio

Recently I realized that I’m spending almost as much time in “professional listening” as I am doing “professional reading”. So many interviews, Webcasts, TED talks, Google Tech Talks, and the like!

So I was intrigued indeed when I read about Searching Video Lectures, a tool from MIT that leverages decades of speech-recognition research to convert audio into text and make it searchable, as reported in MIT’s Technology Review of November 26, 2007.

I tried out the Lecture Browser. It currently has only 200 publicly available lectures, but still! For an astronomy buff like me I was thrilled to zero in on professors’ insights about Hubble images (retrieved easily by a keyword search on “Hubble”.)  Definitely a fun tool to play with.

Then I thought about oral history projects I’ve known. Think of all the recordings of interviews with individuals who provide insight to our history, culture, and perspectives. The ones I know about have a MARC record about the interview with a very brief summary of the topics covered (usually with associated subject headings), the media used (e.g., “sound tape reel”), and a note that a transcript is available. But in the Brave New World, imagine what it would be like for researchers to type a few keywords and pull up both the transcript where the key words appear and the spot in the audio where the topic is discussed?