Voice recognition software has always been considered to be a rather curious product...
Voice recognition software has always been considered to be a rather curious product. More so for the fact that whilst the average person is able to articulate themselves quite easily in conversation it is a different matter to dictate ones thoughts onto paper. The contents of a business letter for example are quite different to that of normal conversation. In this respect in using voice recognition software not only must we train the machine to understand the way we speak, the ebb and flow of our individualistic speech nuances, we also must train ourselves to slow down our thought patterns, and articulate every word to gain full effectiveness of the efficiencies of this type of software.
But, enough philosophising about the efficacies of voice recognition software, lets take a serious look at Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 5. Opening the package and installing the software was extremely simple, but in todays age of user-friendly software this was to be expected. The interesting thing to note was that once the software was installed there was a training program that took approximately five minutes to complete. After this training program the user is prompted to take a tutorial. This tutorial took another 15 minutes, but is well worth the time as it shows you how to get the most out of this product.
Dragon claims that NaturallySpeaking version 5 has better recognition than its predecessors. All my testing of NaturallySpeaking version 5 to date has been quite impressive. From the outset the software begins to identify the users speech patterns and word enunciations. When the software does not recognise a word, or indeed if it spells out the incorrect word there is a Quick Correct function resident in the program which is by far the easiest way to correct mistakes. Essentially the software operates by identifying a mistake in the recognised text, selecting the incorrect word and bringing up a shortlist of alternatives, each specified by a number. If the second selection is correct, simply choose two, and the software will replace the word with the shortlist word. In the event that the word does not exist in the shortlist the user can simply spell the word. Once corrections are made and the session is over NaturallySpeaking version 5 will do two things, firstly saving the words not initially recognised by the system, and secondly it will save a speech recognition file of your voice. Different people will reach different levels of accuracy and in this respect the more you use the software the more the software will recognise you.
DragonPad is NaturallySpeaking 5s word processing program, and is basically a cut down version of your stock standard word processing program. Quick Correct is only available in DragonPad. NaturallySpeaking 5 also operates within several other software packages such as the full complement of Microsoft Office products. Unfortunately because Quick Correct is not operating in these programs the full correction dialog box must be utilised. This works in a similar fashion to Quick Correct, but has more options. Furthermore, running NaturallySpeaking 5 through these programs also tends to take up more system resources. It is questionable as to whether there is a downside to this, particularly if the user is simply utilising the software for dictation purposes.
NaturallySpeaking 5 can be used for more than just dictation. The software is sophisticated enough to be used as a navigation device on the desktop, or for
the Internet-inclined it can be used for browsing. However, as with everything it depends on how dedicated and/or lazy you are. This is because weaving around a desktop or an Internet browser is considerably more sophisticated than dictating to a machine, primarily because word processing is a simple left to right, then top to bottom configuration on the PC screen, whereas browsing has a much more complicated, freestyle approach to moving around the screen.
The software under review was the Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 5 Preferred edition. This will retail in Australia for $399.95. A bit pricey for some, but, for those whose lives are centred around the word processor it will most likely be considered a must have productivity tool. Voice recognition software is not for everyone, but consider this: the review for this product was written using the product. Going back to the old keyboard and mouse will never be the same.
This Review appeared in the February, 2001 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine