Headquartered in Plano, TX, Augusta Hitech is a broadly-focused technology company which provides business solutions in numerous spaces including blockchain technology, IoT (Internet of Things), and Analytics to name just a few. One of the company’s more pertinent offerings as regards the Office of Academic Technology is a turnkey ADA solution, an application which provides everything necessary for ADA compliance for online media content. Branded simply as “ADA,” the app offers automated transcription, closed-captioning, and live speech transcription services. Recently, Augusta pitched the Office of Academic Technology (OAT) and offered us an opportunity to test ADA. This post summarizes what we found.
As with every application in development, there are always hits and misses. Augusta ADA offers a transcription workflow very similar to that of YouTube. Once a file is uploaded to a cloud media library, ADA immediately generates a transcript and captions.
ADA limits you to four media formats including .mp3, .wav, .mp4, and YouTube links. While those four formats cover most bases, we would like to see Augusta support more formats going forward. Consider YouTube’s flexible media platform, into which one can upload almost any video file format. While it is cool that ADA will accept and transcribe both video files and audio files (unlike YouTube), we would like to see support for .aif audio and .avi video at minimum; furthermore, we would like to see HTML support for websites beyond YouTube. OAT frequently needs transcripts from online sources other than YouTube, so it is our opinion that one should be able to link video from any platform. But, again, most bases are covered by Augusta’s four available options. We do anticipate that Augusta will expand their media support going forward.
As a side note, it seems both constrictive and redundant that Augusta ADA would only support linking from YouTube, which itself offers transcription and closed-captioning at no cost.
Once media is uploaded into the Media Library, ADA transcribes it automatically, and fast! Blazingly fast! It is quite gratifying to behold. In the test cases cited in the photo above, Augusta transcribed the 9-minute video in less than one minute. The 50-minute video took a little longer, about 4 minutes. Impressive! Augusta offers two automatic transcription engines. The YouTube transcription engine is the default option. For a little extra cash, you can also choose the Watson engine. Each has its advantages and disadvantages regarding accuracy, punctuation, and proper capitalization. Neither engine is perfect, and both generate genuinely hilarious misinterpretations from time to time.
Which brings us to the editing tools. Inaccurate transcripts and subtitles require manual editorial. To that end and upon completion of the automatic transcript, you are taken to a window which looks like this:
The editing tools are located in the top right corner. While sparse in number, they are quite effective. Copy editing of captions and transcripts is simple, convenient, and intuitive. Captioning often involves a lot of looping, rewinding and pausing. To that end, one very cool feature is the play button, conveniently located beside each caption:
This is a creation of UI-design genius! Providing video playback control right beside the text, line-by-line, time and energy spent clicking and dragging between transport and editing controls are reduced dramatically.
One minor complaint, as demonstrated in the photo above. Notice how the timestamps are greyed-out. That is because ADA does not provide for editorial of a subtitle’s timeframe. Numerous factors can affect any given subtitle, including timing, syntax, semantics, and completeness. Sometimes a subtitle needs to remain onscreen longer (or shorter) to its increase readability and impact. We suggested this UI improvement, and Augusta plans to implement an update soon.
We also noticed “drift” between the video content and subtitles. Over a period of time, the subtitles lose sync with the video content, “drifting” as far as six minutes behind the video. OAT considered this an outright deal-breaker, but Augusta was able to mitigate the problem. They will offer a comprehensive update in the near future. Nonetheless, subtitle and vocal sync was never perfect during our tests, particularly with longer videos.
One of the most interesting features of ADA is the live speech transcription services, the obvious use case being live classroom lecture transcription. Unfortunately, OAT was unable to test ADA Live Transcription ourselves, but we were able to see a demo. While the live speech transcription features are impressive, they are not quite “there.” We immediately noticed issues of transcription accuracy. OAT would estimate the current accuracy of ADA Live Transcription at about 60-65%, which is entirely insufficient. Dialect and accent seem to dramatically affect the live transcription engine. OAT expects that ADA Live Transcription will become much more accurate over time, and we will continue to monitor Augusta’s progress.
Augusta is far from inexpensive. The company offers two separate options for contracts, one monthly and one yearly. The monthly plan costs $249/month. The yearly plan runs $2,689/year. Here is a cost comparison:
- Monthly Plan, $249 monthly, includes
- Free 2 hours of transcript
- Free 20GB media storage
- Yearly Plan, $2689 yearly, includes
- Free 24 hours of transcript
- Free 240 GB of storage
- Additional costs
- After free transcript, $0.20/min
- After free storage, $0.10/min
Reviewing costs and benefits, OAT noticed immediately that we would far exceed both the time and space allotments in either plan. In other words, The Office of Academic Technology generates far more content each month than two hours or 20-gigabytes. Many of the individual videos for which we provide transcriptions and subtitles exceed two-hour run times in themselves. Not to mention, upon investigation, we discovered that Augusta’s media storage limits do not turn over monthly, or even yearly. For example, when we inevitably fill our 240GB storage limit for the year, that’s it—our only options would be to purchase more storage space at the cost of $0.10 per minute of media run time, or to delete content from the Media Library to free up our purchased storage space.
Content deletion raises a serious problem. Our content must remain “sticky,” meaning that it must be available perpetually, or at least through the end of a semester. And, usually, our content must remain sticky semester over semester.
So, for OAT’s use case, both pricing models create a “black hole,” if you will—a permanent and ever-increasing cost liability.
Due to the cost considerations, the Office of Academic Technology did not sign a contract with Augusta at this time. Essentially, Augusta ADA does not provide a sufficiently different workflow from much less-expensive solutions which we currently utilize such as YouTube, Amara, and 3Play Media.
Despite our hesitation, The Office of Academic Technology remains very impressed with Augusta, and very grateful for the opportunity to put their ADA solution through its paces. Perhaps, someday, the solution will more adequately meet our office’s budget and technological requirements. We will attentively follow Augusta’s progress as their technology improves.