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Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Back to Voice Recognition

I recently wrote a post about Apple Dictate, a voice recognition program that comes with the newer Apple systems. I have been jumping in and out of the voice recognition market for years. For me, it becomes the ultimate solution for getting ideas down in print more efficiently. Although, it comes free with the Apple system, Apple Dictate lacks the editing features that make it a useful program.

So, I was motivated to upgrade my copy of Dragon Dictate to see whether or not the upgraded features have finally reached the point where the program becomes completely useful. The current version of the program is Dragon Dictate 3.0. From the reviews, and from my own experience with the PC versions, it appears to be almost identical to Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows computers.

I have not been impressed with some of the recent efforts in the voice recognition category, such as Apple's Siri on the iPhone. But my current involvement with Dragon Dictate seems to indicate that the program has finally reached the point where I will use it instead of typing. Obviously, if I had a physical disability that prevented me from typing, or if my typing skills were such that I was painfully slow, there would probably be a greater motivation for trying to use the program for voice recognition.

This post, has been dictated entirely in Dragon Dictate. I am finding that there are very few corrections necessary and that the program is now fast enough to keep up with normal speech. One advantage, is that I have been using the program off and on for a number of years and so most of the commands are familiar to me and it took me only a few minutes of training the new version of the program to get up and running. My experience with the program is that the more that you use it and the more training that you do, including vocabulary and reading text, the more accurate the program becomes over time.

The major difference in using a voice recognition program is the difference in the style of writing when you are speaking in a narrative format as opposed to rewriting and correcting the text as you type. I am not awfully good at proofreading, but I do catch most of my errors as I am typing. I find that using a voice recognition program requires me to go back and reread the text more carefully than I would otherwise. However, even with the advances that have been made in voice recognition over the past few years it is still necessary to go back and make manual corrections to the text.

I assume, if I were using the program almost exclusively, that I would soon learn the editing commands to a level of proficiency that would allow me to make the edits without using the keyboard so frequently. By dictating into a program like Microsoft Word, I can also make use of the automatic spell checking and proofreading/grammar checking characteristics of that program.

Where I have yet to see any advantage, is with data entry. For example, entering names into a genealogy program or editing sources or other such data-entry type activities. Dragon Dictate does a fairly good job of recognizing names but with alternate spellings it is almost counterproductive to try to enter a list of names using the voice recognition software.

With my recent surgery, I thought that I would have all this extra time to write into edit presentations etc. I thought that it might be easier to dictate some of the text, which I could do while resting rather than sitting at my computer. The answer to this supposition was equivocal. It does take less energy to dictate the text rather than use the keyboard, but because of the need to make edits, it is not a complete time-saving option. Let's just say that the reality of recovering from surgery does not generate the amount of free time I imagined.

One big improvement that I find with the program is that it does not translate coughs and sniffles into unreadable text. It seems to do a much better job of filtering out extraneous noises.

Dragon Dictate is not an inexpensive program, but if you have any difficulty in typing you may want to seriously consider the program is an option. I do see a significant improvement over past versions and I may finally begin to use the program regularly.

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