Voice recognition has come of age

While the world around me have been singing praises about Google Now, Siri and the new Contana, I never had any use for applications that understand voice.

First, I did not talk to my smart devices like crazies do.

Second, I loved to type – not because I was really good at it, but typing cleared up my mind. I could think while I type instead of looking at a monitor that freakishly showed any text I spoke.

Third, though I tried multiple voice recognition tools a few years back, they could not really set my pace in the correct way.

A recent incident changed all that. I fractured my elbow in an accident and my right hand was rendered useless for typing purposes. I also took a leave of absence from office, and staying home without doing anything was a new experience. To retain my sanity –

  • I read books
  • Watched a few movies
  • Talked to my family members until they told me to stop. Talked even more with a few friends who finally stopped visiting

In spite of spending time productively elsewhere, I was a man on a mission as far as my blogs were concerned. I could not stay away for a long long time and expect all my faithful readers (numbered around 25 at the time including a couple of bots) to miss me.

I tried typing in one hand but it was seriously frustrating. Though I normally use 3 fingers/hand and am a slow typer, it was a bit of a workout to span the entire keyboard with just one hand and the process was crazy slowwwww.

It was during these hard times I turned my attention again to voice recognition software.

 

Windows 8.1 voice recognition sucks

I tried a hand (specifically my left hand) at the voice recognition capabilities provided by Windows 7, and Windows 8.1.

They seemed okay. Although they committed a lot of mistakes, it was still satisfactory to see whole sentences getting typed as I spoke. It took away my opportunity of improving my biceps by typing with one hand, but I was fairly happy .

There were problems though –

  • I could not get the software to understand more than a few words. I had to repeatedly speak in several different accents until the software could finally get it
  • It was nerve wracking to make navigate to specific words/sentences and rewrite parts of what I dictated earlier

 

After spending a couple of hours, and a couple of minutes researching for the latest in voice recognition, I decided to get Dragon Speech Recognition software. Although I’d heard about Dragon as the industry leader for voice recognition, I had never really paid attention. Boy, was I surprised.

 

Dragon speech recognition rocks

Dragon speech recognition is not exactly cheap. It costs around Rs.5k upwards. I started with the trial version just to make sure the money is going into something that is useful for me.

Dragon naturally speaking speech recognition

When you start Dragon speech recognition software, the first thing it does is to check your microphone and make sure it works well with the software. The next important thing it does is to prompt you to train the software. This takes around 15 minutes, but goes a long way in getting you two to work together.

Dragon software identifies Indian accent well, which was a big plus. Though Indians form a significant part of English speakers on the globe, they are not typically considered an attractive market since the spending is quite low.

Once all the setup is done, you can learn advanced commands, or see some of the commonly used commands in the sidebar.

Dragon speech recognition advance commands

As you can see, you can not only dictate text  to Dragon but also Search,  open applications, post to Twitter/Facebook in one go, and more.

You can even add new words or phrases, new commands and train the Dragon even more to suit your needs.

While this was not as exciting as “How to train your Dragon” (the movie), it made my life a lot less frustrating when my right hand did not quite function optimally.

All is not well of course.

I am now at the risk of losing my voice in addition to my eyesight due to my long hours in front of the computer. My family members have kindly taken to it, and have learned to ignore my ramblings while I keep dictating something or the other. And my neighbours throw side glances to silently inquire who and why I keep talking strange things.

In spite of all that, I’m now a believer. Dictating to the computer is far faster than typing. I’m still annoyed that I can’t think clearly when I’m speaking, but I will leave that to the future to figure out. I will continue to ride the Dragon a lot more in subsequent weeks.

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