Man Versus Machine: Identifying Song Lyrics

29 Mart 2016 | + Boyana Dimova

Have you ever sworn you heard the lyrics to a song one way, when it turned out to be completely different? Remember the Taylor Swift song where she sings about “Starbucks” lovers? If you didn’t know already, the term for these kinds of misheard lyrics is mondegreens, and they’re very common. In an interesting contest, some of the best professional transcriptionists were pitted against leading voice recognition software to see which could better identify commonly misinterpreted lyrics. To make the battle as fair as possible, a cappella versions of Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Elton John and Brad Paisley songs were selected. The software, IBM Watson, battled two transcriptionists, Colby and Schenae.

Schenae went first, battling the software to transcribe “Tiny Dancer” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Schenae murdered the machine in the “Tiny Dancer” matchup, earning a perfect score while the computer had 11 mistakes. The fight for “I Knew You Were Trouble” was much closer but Schenae was still the victor, again transcribing to perfection against the computer’s four errors.

Colby then took to the battle with “Runnin’ With the Devil.” Again the human made no mistakes while the computer totaled 24 unique problems. Redeeming itself slightly with “Ticks”, the computer’s total 17 problems were still completely outmatched by Colby’s additional perfect score. You can find full lyrics to all of the songs here.

So if you have had one of those classic arguments about what the song really says, rest easier knowing that you can probably still get more right than a machine. If you ever need perfect diction though, a human transcriptionist seems to be the best option. Check out this cool graphic: for the full breakdown of this latest fight between mankind and its smartest creations.

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