Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A return to voice recognition software

One of the most remarkable things about modern computers is their ability to recognize human speech. it seems almost beyond belief that a computer could understand what you are saying and print words out on an screen. Despite its remarkable ability, voice recognition software simply does not work the same way that I do when I am writing. So, any transition to voice recognition software has always depended on the sophistication of the software and its ability to transcribe error-free.

The latest versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking/Dragon Dictate, comes as close as any program has to being totally useful for writing. Absent some overwhelming reason for using voice recognition software, such as a disability that would require its use, I have always found it easier to think through what I am writing while I type, since I often go back and change various parts as I go along. Anything I dictate requires heavy editing.

I started out dictating the first two paragraphs of this post, but changed back to typing, after I had to go back and edit the dictated text. Conceptually, I have a hard time fitting voice recognition into a genealogical context. I have mentioned before, that I used to dictate most of my legal pleadings and briefs. But the transcription was done by a legal assistant who could correct the grammar and put in proper punctuation as it was transcribed. I haven't dictated anything for years and years. I converted over to typing all my legal work myself because it was so much more efficient.

Theoretically, you could make all your corrections by voice commands, but I have never been able to do that in an effective way. There is also no issue with speed. I can type quite fast and by the time I make all the corrections, I have lost any small amount of advantage voice recognition has over typing. I find it very cumbersome to try and do routine things, such as fill out forms, with voice recognition. My main transition in operating the computer is to adopt a touch pad instead of using a mouse. I guess one of the issues in switching to voice commands is that you have to say the words and think about what you are doing. With a track pad, I can control the computer almost without thinking. All I have to do is look at the spot where I want the cursor to go and the track pad responds almost by reflex action.

As I already mentioned, one overriding factor would be either a very limited ability with a keyboard and control device such as a mouse or some other limitation. Of course, have any disability with speech would make trying to use voice recognition almost as difficult as typing with any other interface such as would be the case for a person with limited or no use of the arms or hands. In that sense voice recognition opens up some alternatives and is very limited in others.

I know some people who have had an extremely successful transition to using almost all voice recognition. I have often wondered if I gave voice recognition a longer trial, if I would become dependent on it. But I have never been able to endure the difficulties of editing long enough to really know if that would happen. I do think it is important to have the ability to use voice recognition available, because during a not too recent illness and subsequent hospitalization, I was able to keep writing even when I was laying flat on my back.

So, I guess I will have to say that even with the dramatic strides made by the programs, I would have to be convinced to change my style and mode of writing to convert.

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