Google VoiceThe World is changing. It’s changing in such a rapidly and unbelievably expanding way that within a few short years, all of today’s changes will appear as normal as turning a key to start a car, or walking to a grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. (These are both amazing systems that we take for granted in our day to day lives.)
So what prompted this realization? Lots of things. But here’s the big one right now.
I got my Google Voice account today (free).
(See the video below if you’re not already familiar with Google Voice.)
And I wanted to test out my new account.
So I chose a phone number (using a really cool search feature Google Voice offers you for choosing your phone number) and I called Carrie to have her leave a message for me.. (I really wanted to test out Google Voice’s transcription to see it in action.)
After calling Carrie (on her cell) and giving her my Google Voice # to call me Carrie calls my new Google Voice # from her cell phone.
Google rings the call through to my cell phone (which is how I have set it up in Google Voice.)
The caller ID on my cell phone briefly shows “Forwarded Call” and then Carrie’s number.
And when I answer, I hear the following:
“Call From Carrie Kraft.”
“To accept, press 1. To send to voice mail, press 2. To send to voice mail and listen in on the voice mail, press 3.”
To listen in on the voice mail? I can do that? This is something I gotta’ try!
So I press 3.
“Sending to voicemail. To join the call at any time, press * .”
To join the call? You mean I can join in if I’m immediately interested in what she’s saying and want to talk about it? Otherwise it can just go to voice mail (which I can log in and check online and delete it as easily as deleting an email)?
A few seconds later, I’m listening to Carrie leaving her voice mail, the very first message on my Google Voice Mail (other than Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s default welcome message) at the EXACT SAME TIME as she’s leaving it. Whoa!
She can’t hear me, but I can hear her.
Just before she’s about to end the message, I press star and cut in.
“Do you know what’s crazy?”
“… … Uh… what?”
“CRAZY!” I exclaim and probably break Carrie’s eardrum from the loudness of my exclamation. She’s not only surprised (because she thought she was leaving a message just on a voice mail service… not that I was listening in AS she was leaving it). She is equally impressed by the technology.
So after that shock wears off, I ask her if she will call back to leave a message and see how well the Google Voice transcription works.
Carrie calls back, and I get the same three options.
“Call From Carrie Kraft.”
“To accept, press 1. To send to voice mail, press 2. To send to voice mail and listen in on the voice mail, press 3. ”
But I wait, thinking there may be more. I’m not amazed that there’s an option 4, but I am amazed what the option is.
“To accept and record the call, press 4.”
I can accept and record the call?
And the caller won’t know they are being recorded?

And it will go right to my Google Voice box, be transcribed, and (presumably) be something I can download as an MP3? This is too cool, and way scary at the same time. (Like most innovations.)
I have all these tools available to me now through other free and paid services (except the listen to voice mail as it’s being recorded feature), but Google has made them seamless and simple.
So I press 2, and 1 minute later I get 3 text messages with the transcription of Carrie’s phone message.
I’m not a real fan of texting, and we don’t have it on our phone plan, so that’s a feature I’ll be shutting off, but I have to admit, it’s cool technology too. I saw that technology (Voice Mail to text message) at CES 2007 for the first time… Again, Google’s made it seamless and simple.
To write this post, I could have downloaded the MP3, renamed it, re-uploaded it to our web site, and streamed it to you from there, or let you download it from there. But why would I go to all that trouble when Google Voice has given me simple copy and paste embed code so I can just put it right on the site?
Carrie was on the road driving down the highway when leaving this message, and for as much background noise as there is, I’m pretty impressed with the transcription. (You might see that the transcription is a bit off and wonder why I think it’s a good transcription. However, think about this… it’s just the beginning. Google is at it’s infancy in this technology, and it’s already this good. Imagine when this technology is really clean and is applied to YouTube videos. And that’s just the start. But I digress…)
Here’s Google Voice’s transcription:
hey it’s me we are now at at this number 30 44 courtesy road remember that you little town for the they have to stop by on highway 34 murillo drive and really the whole and i’m pretty sure the certificate there lemme to go that way but we don’t wanna go that way 3 thanks and so we’re gonna go see you in denver and to see you soon love you bye
Here’s the message:

And looking around in Google Voice, I learn how simple they’ve made the tools for managing the voice mail features.
Turning off texting in Google Voice is as simple as clicking settings, and unchecking a box.
Google Voice - turn off automatic sending of texts
That’s just cool.
Other cool features of Google Voice include:
Google Voice - Incoming text/SMS messages

  • The ability to make outbound calls (i.e. You put in a phone number, and Google will call you at the number of your choosing (as long as it’s in your account and in the US) and connect you with whatever number you’ve given Google to call
  • Incoming SMS messages (Why add texting to my cell phone plan when I can just get text messages at my Google Voice number?)
  • Integration with your Google contacts (if you have someone in your contact list, they can have different settings than someone who isn’t in your contact list i.e. If a call comes from contacts I know, forward to my cell phone. If call comes from an unknown contact, forward directly to voice mail.)

One question I had was, “Can I port my existing phone number over to Google Voice?”
Doing a little Googling, I discovered that it’s not available yet. But I’m sure it’s coming.
Imagine… Not only are your contacts stored in one place, with the phone system seamlessly integrating their contact info into your home phone, cell phone, business phone, and address book, but the entire history of every phone conversation you have ever had with that person (as well as every email conversation you’ve ever had with that person) is recorded, transcribed, and searchable at a moment’s notice.
Seriously, this is powerful, fascinating, and potentially frightening Orwellian-type technology.
I always tell people that the difference between George Orwell’s 1984 and our modern world is the power of choice.
George Orwell thought we would be forced to allow Big Brother to access our lives because some branch of the government would make us pay the consequences if we did not. Instead, we choose to allow tracking to happen for our own vanity and because it creates conditions which are (arguably) more favorable to functioning well in a fast paced uber-connected world.
In other words, we actively choose to allow ourselves to be watched because of technology’s “cool” factor, as well as the productivity increases and convenience features that this sort of technology creates.
For those of you concerned about the idea that every bit of who you are, including a history of your voice, would be able to be tracked and accessed with a simple search, Google has yet again created an innovation which makes the choice frighteningly difficult (even if you don’t use the service yourself, it’s super simple for someone else to have all their calls with you recorded and transcribed) through amazing technology.
It’s technology which creates consequences for those who don’t choose it while offering productivity, convenience, and coolness to those who do.
Videos about Google Voice:

LINK: Official Google Blog: Here comes Google Voice