A Comprehensive Review of Otter.ai in 2022 (+ the New Otter)

One of Artificial Intelligence's (AI) many wonders is automated transcription. Using automatic speech recognition, AI converts your live or recorded speeches to text.

This forms the main offering of many transcription and meeting management services like Otter.ai, which deploys this technology to solve the tedium, time waste, and high cost associated with manual transcription. 

Automated transcriptions also create opportunities for making work more efficient, collaborative, and inclusive. For example, you can make and keep more accurate meeting records, work asynchronously, and improve the participation of people who are deaf or hard of hearing in conversations.

This Otter.ai review will demonstrate how these are achieved and answer all your questions about the product, including: 

  • What Otter.ai is
  • Its sign-up process 
  • Key features
  • The new Otter
  • Best alternative and
  • Other frequently asked questions

What is otter.ai

Otter.ai is an AI-powered transcription and meeting management software that allows users to record and transcribe conversations, generate and edit meeting notes and records, and collaborate with co-workers.

This description suggests that Otter.ai has several use cases - and it does. You can create voice notes, audio dictate any content piece you want in textual form, document all kinds of meetings, lectures, and events in detail, and convert audio files to text.

You can also converse with co-workers and clients via Direct Message or Group Chat or invite them to collaborate with you on your notes on the platform by simply inviting them.

The app has web, Chrome extension, mobile (Android and iOS) versions, and free to custom pricing plans.

Test criteria

Our goal for this review was to test Otter.ai’s key features as a transcription and meeting management software on its free and premium plans to evaluate its performance on the web, Chrome extension, and mobile versions.

The key things we had our eyes out for were:

  • Transcription accuracy
  • Ease of setup and use
  • Consistency of performances across different versions
  • Responsiveness
  • Quality of features

We tested Otter.ai’s performance by:

  • Conducting test meetings with different speakers
  • Recording voice notes using both live and recorded conversations
  • Uploading audio files 

The conversations were recorded at different speeds and voice volumes to get an idea of how it performs in different circumstances and when its performance is optimal.

We also recorded conversations when there was a lot of background noise and when it was quiet to determine how background noises affect its voice recognition and accuracy.

Review

We will discuss our review under the following things:

  • Signup steps
  • Interface
  • Key features
  • The new Otter

Signup steps

Otter.ai’s sign-up steps are quick and easy.

Each step had clear instructions on what you needed to do and the entire process was complete in less than 3 minutes.

Otter.ai does not require you to produce any unnecessary information when signing up. All the app requires at this stage are your email address, first name, and surname - and it suffices to simply use initials.

You will two emails during this process:

  • A prompt to verify your email address
  • A welcome email

Once you receive your welcome email, you can log into the app with your email address and password. 

Interface

After just creating an Otter.ai account, you will be bombarded with different information and customization options on your dashboard. This can make it look cluttered and unorganized.

In spite of this, Otter.ai has an intuitive interface that makes navigation easy for people with different levels of technical experience. So, you don’t require any or a lot of training to be able to use most of its features. You can also get rid of the clutter by dismissing the prompts and setting up your account.

It has a dashboard that allows you to see, use, and manage all your recording options and conversations. And once conversations are accessed, you can edit them as you see fit.

You can also manage your calendar from your Otter.ai account once it's synced. 

Key Features  

Otter.ai’s key features include:

  • Transcription
  • Voiceprint and Speaker Tag
  • Notes
  • Meeting recording
  • Otter Assistant 

Transcription

Otter.ai’s transcription function is the star of its offering. The company has spent years developing its speech recognition technology and has continued to optimize it. But before we discuss how successful its optimization efforts have been, let’s look into how you can use this function.

Otter.ai serves as an all-purpose transcription software and gives you an impressive range of transcription options that is unmatched by many of its competitors. 

You can use it to transcribe: 

  • Meetings and virtual events
  • Audio files
  • In-app private voice recordings
  • Direct messages
  • Group messages

All files created are saved in both audio and textual formats so that you can edit, comment, and invite other people to view or collaborate with you on them. 

You can share transcriptions by adding people to the document or copying and sharing the link via any communication channel of your choice. Alternatively, you can export the document in .txt, .docx, .srt, and .pdf formats on premium plans or just .txt on the free plan.

Otter.ai’s transcription function can be enhanced with customizations like vocabulary-building. With vocabulary building, you can improve its transcription by introducing names, words you might have found struggling to recognize, or non-English words. The vocabulary-building customization, however, does not guarantee recognition of all the new words introduced. We found that during the test, Otter.ai continued to fail to recognize certain words, despite having built them into its vocabulary. 

Now, let’s discuss Otter.ai’s accuracy. This is where we found that it struggles the most. 

As expected, AI speech recognition is never really 100% accurate because speech variations are endless and many other factors affect its performance such as the quality of the audio or microphone, background noises, and speed. But even in relatively ideal situations, Otter.ai still struggled to deliver up to 90% transcription accuracy. We recorded the following paragraph from Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun:

Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair. Ugwu's aunty said this in a low voice as they walked on the path. "But he is a good man," she added. "And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day." She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed on the grass.

The results looked different in every test. In Fig 1.1 and Fig 1.2, the first set of speeches were recorded when the speaker spoke slower than usual while the second represents results from speaking at their usual conversation speed. Fig 1.1 is from the speeches recorded under the worst conditions where there was some background noise and the speaker was not conscious about enunciating their words properly, the error rate was approximately 20%. 

Fig 1.1: Worst Case

Fig 1.2, on the other hand, represents the most ideal case. The speech was recorded in a quiet room and the speaker was pronouncing their words unambiguously. The error rate was reduced to 14%.

Fig 1.2: Ideal Case

The paragraph used in the tests contained 88 words and an average of 15.25 mistakes were recorded from the 4 tests conducted under different conditions. This puts Otter.ai’s average accuracy rate at approximately 83%.

But you can improve the quality of your transcriptions by speaking clearly and avoiding background noise. You can also use the vocabulary building customizations - but as we stated earlier, this does not always make a difference.

Voiceprint and Add a Speaker

These are speaker-identification features.

With voiceprint, you can teach Otter.ai your voice so that the app distinguishes and tags it in conversations. The Add a Speaker feature, on the other hand, allows you to add speakers on a conversation by tagging them to their speech on the transcript document at the end of the recording. 

These features helps Otter.ai to automatically identify your voice and tagged speakers in future conversations. These ultimately help you create clear notes and keep track of each speaker’s contribution to the conversation. The subsequent automatic identification of tagged speakers is, however, limited to people in the same group. This means that the app will not recognize a person if they are in a conversation outside their group.

Notes

Every transcript can be converted to high-quality notes complete with highlights, timestamps, and quotes.

The edit feature on transcript documents allows you to highlight, cut, and copy parts of the transcript generated. You can also add comments and action items to part or all of the document and tag other people to join you on the notes.

Notes, like raw transcripts, can be shared or exported. This function makes keeping records of conversations, distilling key points and action items, accessing crucial information, and keeping all team members aligned possible.

Overall, the notes feature is robust and equipped with both basic and advanced functions you need to develop great notes.

Meeting recording

The meeting recording feature is very simple. You can live record your meeting audio when:

  • Your Otter Assistant is in a meeting
  • You host a meeting
  • Using the Chrome extension

The audio file created remains independent of the transcript. So, even when you edit the transcript, it remains intact. You can also share the audio file alongside the transcript document or on its own as an mp3 file.

In addition to meeting recordings, you can record voice notes and messages on Otter.ai - all of which can be shared and edited in the same way a meeting recording can. However, you should not expect a high-quality audio recording since the audio file is in the mp3 format. The recordings are just satisfactory and clear enough for you to hear what was said. But they also sound textured in a way that indicates average to low quality.

Another problem is that Otter.ai only records audio conversations. So, you might not find it useful if you want a video recording of your meeting. 

Otter Assistant 

The Otter.ai meeting assistant is an AI assistant that helps users with Business and Enterprise accounts manage your meetings and events. It is also available to Pro account users for a limited trial.

The Otter.ai Assistant can automatically:

  • Join meetings 
  • Record and transcribe meetings
  • Share live transcripts with meeting participants 
  • Post the Otter link as an in-meeting chat message for all meeting participants

So, you won’t have to worry about joining meetings late or missing important points.

The setup process is also easy. All you have to do is click on the Otter.ai profile and select Account Settings

otter.ai account setting

When the settings page appears, select Meetings. Toggle all the options on and that’s it!

The new Otter 

Otter.ai included new features in 2022 for its Business and Enterprise account users to make Otter.ai a one-stop app for meeting management.

The new features are:

Meeting summaries:

Otter.ai generates meeting summaries from long meetings by distilling key information and presenting them in bite-sized outlines to make navigating the meeting notes easier.

Feed and Calendar:

These features centralize all your transcription documents, communication, and scheduling. 

You can sync your Otter.ai to your calendar and see all your scheduled meetings and set your Otter Assistant to autojoin. You can also join your meetings directly from your calendar and create your notes in real-time.

Images on notes:

You can add all kinds of images to your meeting transcripts during and after meetings. This is a great way to add slides, visual descriptions, and a bit of fun to meeting notes

Meeting Gems:

The Gems function allows you to add and assign action items, comments, and notes to the transcription document both during and after meetings.

While some of the new features are undoubtedly useful and nice to have, they are still lacking in some ways. Meeting summaries, for example, are only available if your meetings are long, so access and navigation are not simplified for shorter meetings.

And despite having a calendar on the app, you can only see schedules. You can’t create events or meetings unless you log into your calendar app.

There is also a recurring lag in the Otter.ai feed when you try to access conversations that makes the process mildly frustrating. 

These, notwithstanding, the new Otter.ai is a laudable attempt to make the app more functional for users.

Verdict and Conclusion 

Otter.ai is an overall satisfactory automated transcription service for English speakers. So, if you need an efficient note-taking app, Otter.ai is a great option to explore.  

Also, as far as individual and team collaboration on notes go, it is hard to top what Otter.ai offers. You can work asynchronously with people within and outside your workplace without any major problems.

Otter.ai is, however, still lacking as a meeting management tool for most of the reasons earlier explained, including, scheduling limitations and audio-only meeting recording. It also is not inclusive of diverse and multi-lingual teams with its North American and European-only accent recognition and English-only transcription functions.

You can explore alternatives that excel where Otter.ai fails. Airgram, for example, is Otter.ai’s best alternative and functions as an end-to-end meeting management and productivity tool for diverse teams. You can check out our review of Otter.ai’s top alternatives to aid your selection.

FAQs 

Does Otter.ai translate?

No. Otter.ai does not have language translation or multilingual functions. It only transcribes conversations in English (US and UK).

Is Otter good for transcribing?

Yes, it is. 

Even though Otter.ai is not 100% accurate, it performs decently in regular-paced conversation.

Its performance can, however, be significantly improved when you speak slowly and clearly with minimal background noise.

Can Otter AI identify different speakers?

Yes, it can. However, you can expect it to sometimes struggle with telling speakers apart.

How long does Otter take to transcribe?

Otter.ai has live transcription functions so you can transcribe conversations in real-time. The length of the conversation might, however, determine how long the transcription document will be processed.

But it works a little differently when you upload an audio file you want to transcribe. It is estimated that the app requires between five and six minutes to transcribe a 15-minute audio file.