After an initial partnership announced in April, Otter.ai has again collaborated with Zoom to offer users live video captioning for conference calls and webinars. As with the earlier live meeting notes integration, this feature will only be available to Otter for Business and Zoom Pro subscribers.
As many workers continue to conduct business via video calls, live video captioning can make meetings more accessible for those with hearing impairments. (In September, UK public sector agencies were required to provide captioning for all video content moving forward.)
In addition to enabling organizations to comply with accessibility guidelines, the latest integration also aims to support international organizations using English as their official business language.
Users who already have Otter Live Notes integrated with their Zoom account can now enable live captions from within a meeting. To do so, users need to open Otter Live Notes and then copy the API token from their Zoom meeting into Otter Live Notes.
In a statement, Sam Liang, CEO and founder of Otter.ai, said that live video captioning is another feature that makes Otter Live Notes a “must-have business communications and collaboration product. By adding this new feature, Otter.ai removes the significant problem of miscommunication from remote work, heightening organizations’ productivity, and efficiency,” he said.
The Live Notes integration offers access to live transcripts, which meeting participants can highlight, comment on and add pictures to via the Otter.ai web or mobile app.
Post-meeting transcripts of Zoom cloud recordings are also newly available, along with headset support that ensures Otter.ai Live Video Meeting Notes can capture both sides of a conversation when using headsets or earbuds. (These features are only available if the meeting host has an Otter for Teams account.)
Rival videoconferencing platforms such a Google Meet and Microsoft Teams already offer a comprehensive in-meeting closed captioning service. By integrating Otter.ai with its video services, Zoom is, in effect, catching up to competitors and removing a key differentiator between the three platforms.
Although Otter.ai only launched in February 2018, it has built up a millions-strong user base and is backed by Google, Tesla, DeepMind, and Facebook.
Liang has noted that the growing need for virtual meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic make it even more important for employees to have high-quality meeting notes. “Otter usage with Zoom meetings has increased by more than 5X in the past few weeks and we’re seeing new sign-ups from remote workers and distance learning,” he said earlier this year. “Otter has transcribed more than 25 million meetings, accounting for more than 750 million transcribed meeting minutes to date.”
Building a ‘best-of-breed’ product
Zoom has long been a champion of third-party integrations, something Zoom’s group product manager Nitasha Walia talked up in October 2019.
Those integrations are important, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “For Zoom, it's valuable because, although they seem like a big company, they're still relatively small. So an ecosystem of partners like Otter can help bring best-of-breed capabilities without having to dedicate its own engineering resources.”
He argued that these kinds of integrations can affect how Zoom users experience the platform. The pandemic has prompted many countries to shutter businesses, office buildings and schools, leading to a large uptake in videoconferencing as workers try to minimize the disruption to their daily lives. As of April, Zoom had 300 million daily users.
Kerravala noted that many teachers are now using Zoom to virtually educate children who can no longer be in the classroom. “Kids with laptops can turn Zoom on and transcribe the session instead of taking notes,” he said.
“However, kids from low-income homes may only have a mobile phone, making attending a Zoom call and recording it difficult. The integrated support democratizes the use of the transcription tool. The headset support means it can be used in noisy areas so now people working from home need not worry about too much background noise.”