My last experiment with voice recognition was a couple years ago when I began to experience the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome. My wrists would ache whenever I use the keyboard, and even more so with my Blackberry. I purchased a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred, then on sale for $99. After the initial training, the software worked well enough but I grew tired of editing the spelling mistakes.
In any case, my physical discomfort disappeared after I changed to a touch screen phone.
Recently, I was dabbling in audio narration for Adobe Captivate e-learning videos. I was not particularly pleased at how my voice sounded on the recording, and decided to practice more at reading passages. After a while, I realised that I might as well use the opportunity to train Dragon at recognising my voice better.
Some of the provided training passages were really long. I just finished reading excerpts from “success is a journey: seven steps to achieving success in the business of life”, which took me more than 30 min. I was exhausted by the time the progress indicator finally filled up.
But the good news is Dragon is now more accurate at recognising my voice. I am a pretty fast touch typist, and dictating by voice is easily as fast as, if not faster, than typing on the keyboard.
In fact, the greatest challenge is actually not the accuracy of voice recognition. Instead, we have simply gotten used to thinking aloud while typing, and this is simply not possible while dictating by voice. I now had to mentally prepare entire phrases and sentences in my head before I speak. It will take some time to undo a habit learnt over the past 20 years.
If you would like to try voice recognition for yourself, there is a system bundled together with Windows 7. The accuracy level is predictably low, and it’s good only for getting your feet wet. Once you work up an appetite for something more robust, you will find that there are limited options available commercially.
Before using Dragon, I have downloaded the free trial versions from e-Speaking.com and Tazti. Neither option worked well for me: e-Speaking.com was opaque and user-unfriendly, and Tazti was unstable and frequently crashed.
Dragon Naturally Speaking appears to be my only viable option.
You may purchase an electronic version from the Dragon website, but Amazon.com will offer you a much better deal. For example, than the Dragon Naturally Speaking Home version costs S$155 (US$130) from the website – substantially more expensive than the US$39.99 pricetag at Amazon (For Prime Members, excluding shipping to Singapore).