There are many great reasons for using voice recognition software.
For those with disabilities it can offer an alternative mode of input that’s much more accessible and that doesn’t require the use of both hands or a place to lean. For others, it offers the chance to free-up your hands so that you can write, e-mail or input data while doing other tasks such as washing the dishes or walking to work. Then there’s the fact that it’s potentially a lot quicker and easier than typing – even the fastest typists in the world can’t write quite as fast as they can talk.
But unfortunately, dictation software is not always quite as easy to use as you might imagine. Voice recognition is fine for giving commands like ‘take picture!’, but it needs to be a lot more accurate if you want to write out entire articles, and that can require a learning curve …
To begin with you are going to want to use the right software, but what might surprise you is that you probably already have at least some software/hardware that can handle voice input. One is your phone – most of which these days have basic dictation software, and another is your word process – many of which have some form of dictation functionality in-built. The former is handy mostly for sending texts when you don’t have any hands free, while the latter is a passable-though-not-perfect option for writing longer passages.
But really if you want to do dictation seriously because you’re hoping to use it to replace typing for work, or because you are unable to use a computer normally, then you will probably want to try ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’ from Nuance. This is one of the most popular options in the industry, and is also one of the most accurate and the most feature rich. Look on the website and you should be able to purchase a copy along with a head-mounted microphone so that you can move around while you type. It’s still not 100% perfect of course (we’re coming to that), but it’s certainly a lot better.
How to Improve Your Hit Rate
When you first load up Dragon or a similar software package you will likely be somewhat amazed that you can now command your computer by just talking to it. Shortly after that though you’ll probably find that things start to get annoying – that the same mistakes keep coming up, and that deleting and fixing mistakes is incredibly fiddly. Here are some tips to help make this a little less of a chore.
Do the Training and Set-Up:
The first thing you should do is to go through any set-up or training features that are offered with your software. These are designed to help you become more familiar with the software, and at the same time to help the software get used to the way that you speak and your particular dialect/tone. It can be a lengthy process doing this, but the more time you put in, the better the software will become.
Focus on Sound Quality:
When dictation software attempts to decipher what you’re saying, it has to first pick out your voice against a backdrop of other noise. This is one of the biggest challenges for good software, so it’s important to make sure that you do everything you can to help. That means investing in a better microphone potentially (the freebee ones are never the best you can get), making sure that you have it at the correct distance from your mouth – and that you are consistent with where you wear it, using it in quiet areas whenever possible and reducing background noise.
That said however, it certainly does help to try and speak as clearly as possible which means you should try to enunciate clearly and to avoid letting your words run into each other. If you have a particular sticking point that you often get wrong (for me it was ‘full stop’ which was constantly translated as ‘few stop’) then practice changing the way you say it.
For these sorts of commands you can even swap the words for things that you perhaps can say more easily.
Finally, make sure you get in lots of practice! It might not go perfectly at first, but the more time you put in the better you will become and the more you will learn the idiosyncrasies of the software.
The author of this article is John Pellet. John is a freelance blogger currently working at Freedom Lift Systems, leading manufacturers of vertical lifts for wheelchairs. John loves to play soccer in his spare time.