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AiThority Interview Series With Jeffrey Kofman, CEO and Founder at Trint

Jeffrey Kofman cue card

Trint’s foundation is A.I. But our interest is taking the output of A.I. and making it useful, it’s called “Applied A.I.” 

Know My Company

Tell us about your journey into AI and how you started Trint?

I call myself the “accidental entrepreneur”. If you had told me ten years ago I’d be an inventor and CEO I’d have said: “Not a chance! You don’t know me!” I spent more than 30 years as a television reporter, foreign correspondent and war correspondent with ABC News and CBS News in the US, Latin America, the Middle East, and London. Before that, I was with the CBC in Canada. It was the most fascinating, challenging, adventurous and fulfilling career I could have asked for. I loved it. But I knew it was time for a change. I a chance meeting with some developers who were working in speech-to-text inspired Trint.

I wanted to know if we could find a way to make A.I. work for journalists. The challenge is that the output is flawed. Journalists (and others) need to have accurate transcripts. That was the inspiration for the development of the Trint Editor. People think it’s magic.

What is Trint for Marketing and Sales teams? How does it ease the pressure off humans?

Marketing and sales teams are constantly talking to people. Marketing does huge volumes of qualitative research (customer interviews) to test and validate. Traditionally it’s been a time-consuming and expensive workflow. You have to pay for the transcripts and wait days for them to return.

With Trint you get them back in minutes and they are instantly searchable. And the cost is a fraction of manual transcription. One of our marketing customers tells us they have five people on their “Trint Team”.

When I asked if he’d let us film a case study for other customers he told me apologetically, “I am hesitant because Trint has become our unfair advantage, you are saving us a lot of money and a lot of time.”

How do you prepare for an AI-driven world in a tech-heavy marketing industry?

Don’t be dazzled by the shiny stuff. Choose the products you use carefully.

Test them for a month or two and see if they really do what they say they do. They need to solve a problem or create efficiencies. If not, move on.

How do you differentiate between Machine Learning and AI at Trint?

Trint’s foundation is A.I. But our interest is taking the output of A.I. and making it useful, it’s called “Applied A.I.”

Because automated speech is by definition flawed, we wanted to find a way to make it easy to search, verify and correct. That’s how we came up with the idea of gluing the source audio to the text on the screen. You can follow it like Karaoke. It’s the marriage of text editor to an audio/video player. It’s really a new language for searching and using media in the 21st century.

How do you make transcription services more readily available to all businesses?

It’s really about workflow. Any business solution has to fit into existing workflows, otherwise, it’s too annoying to use. We focus heavily on making it simple, intuitive and integrated. It’s not just about A.I. It’s about UX and UI.

To what extent are automation output supervised? Can they be tamed and/or manipulated by humans to tune tech performance further?

We don’t work that way. What do is offer users our Custom Dictionary, called “Vocab Builder”. If they have words, names or technical terms that aren’t in the dictionary users can add them so that they will come out correctly in their transcript and they don’t have to be corrected.

What gaps do you commonly find in the applications of AI/ML? How do you fill those gaps at Trint?

People think A.I. is an end in itself. We think of it differently. We use A.I. to do the heavy lifting. That lets users do the final piece with ease: they can search, verify, correct and export their contents. Users tell us Trint saves them hours of work, reducing workflow by 60-90%.

What are your predictions on the role of AI for digital communications?

I think it’s the future. Look around today, this was the stuff of science fiction even a decade ago.

How do you make AI and machine learning deliver economic benefits as well as social goodwill?

One of the thrilling things about what we’ve done at Trint is that it makes the spoken word accessible. Suddenly recorded audio and video can be searched and accessed by people with hearing impairments, vision impairments and motor impairments. As well, because the text follows what is said, it is really useful for people with learning disabilities and who are not native English speakers. It’s really exciting.

What are the major challenges for intelligent mobile technology companies in making it more accessible to local communities? How do you overcome these challenges?

It’s got to be easy to use and trustworthy. Whether it’s Trint’s speech-to-text or a driverless car, people have to trust it. Sometimes that means humans do some of the work, but much less than before.

Tell us the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of AI/ML technologies – How do you prepare for those disruptions in the automation industry?

On one level it’s really exciting. On another level it’s scary. Things are moving so fast. What seems impossible today could be common in a few years. I think the most worrisome part is the ability of governments and others to intrude too much into our lives.

The Crystal Gaze

What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

I follow a lot of companies involved in processing media. That’s Trint’s area so I’m really interested to see complimentary technologies that could potentially work with Trint.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

Clearly, it’s all about Natural Language Processing for us at Trint. We are constantly looking to see if people are conquering new frontiers: better accuracy from bad audio from bad recordings, deciphering overtalk, deciphering heavy foreign accents, making automated punctuation more accurate. These are really complex challenges.

As an AI leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?

I think voice is just beginning to explode in A.I. Things like Google Home and Alexa are just the beginning.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Having an Executive Assistant. Really, In 2017 when Trint really began to grow our leadership team told me one day that we were adding one more hire to our Org Chart “and you don’t have a vote on this!” They smiled a little mischievously. “You’re getting an Executive Assistant.” They saw how much time I was spending on admin and scheduling appointments. It’s been a revolution. My EA is liberated about 30% of my time.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Prof. Geoffrey Hinton, A.I. Guru at Google and The University of Toronto

Thank you, Jeffrey! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

CEO and Founder Jeff Kofman is an Emmy Award winning foreign correspondent and war correspondent with ABC, CBS, and CBC News. In his 30 years of journalism he estimates he has spent thousands of hours manually transcribing interviews, speeches, and press conferences. Jeff began his career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where he was a national news correspondent and anchor, radio host and documentary reporter. From 1997-2001 he was a correspondent in the New York Bureau of CBS News. In 2001 he joined ABC News as the network’s Miami-based correspondent for Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America. From 2003-2005 he was part of the senior team of correspondents rotating into Baghdad to cover the Iraq War. In 2010 he was promoted to ABC News London Correspondent, where he covered stories in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for four years. Jeff won an Emmy for his coverage of the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi during the Arab Spring in 2011. Jeff is a global affairs commentator for the BBC and regular guest on the BBC’s Dateline London.

Trint uses artificial intelligence to power its web-based automated transcription platform. Audio and video files are uploaded to Trint’s online software and then transcribed using automated speech recognition. The Trint Editor is the marriage of a text editor to an audio/video player: the transcribed text is “stitched” to the audio or video file, making it simple to search, verify and edit the machine-generated transcripts.

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