We’ve come a long way since the early days of speech recognition when I first became acquainted with it in 1991.  In those days, IBM VoiceType was the thing and users had to “train up” for quite some time on their pokey old computers.  To be successful, the user was compelled to speak in a halting fashion, clearly enunciating every word.  Speaking naturally was not in the cards.  Accuracy was not quite the high percentage that would be needed for universal success.  But today . . .Today, the world’s leading speech recognition software is clearly Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance, and Windows users have it easy compared to those old days.  Today, speaking naturally is possible with an accuracy that can be as high as 99%.  Now, that’s really something, and so is this software.

Did you ever even consider that you could successfully and easily use your voice to dictate into a document or email?  Or to use your voice to command and control functionality of your computer?  Or that using your voice you could input text faster than you ever imagined you could type?  I hope the following will encourage you to do all of this.  You really can and it is surprisingly inexpensive, so stay with me on this, won’t you?  I think you’ll want to get this software!

Taking advantage of today’s lightning-fast computer processors, this speech recognition software can do things only dreamed about in the past.  It’s amazingly fast!  For only $100 for the Standard Edition, you’ll be speaking and voice navigating in short order.  Use it for documents, email and even instant messaging in addition to Web surfing.  Basics of this version are HERE.

 

I’ve been going through my own learning period with the product.  I am mighty impressed.  No, it’s not something that will be running at flank speed right out of the box.  New users will have a learning curve, from initial setup to the training exercises and then to actual hands-on use in a variety of ways. Sure, it is possible to dive right in as I did and as the company encourages, but true proficiency will come after practice so that all the commands flow from the mind to the lips as if an extension of the fingers to the keyboard.  And that just takes time. I am so looking forward to becoming proficient to the degree that using it becomes somewhat second nature.

There are different editions for different needs and users.  The $200 Preferred Edition does everything the Standard Edition does well, plus it supports Bluetooth wireless microphones and you can use it to record into digital recorders and PDAs in .wma and mp3 formats.  Then, those devices can transfer the dictated files into the PC for transcription using Preferred Edition.  Users could save a bundle on transcription fees!

However, right out of the box, give it a try as I did. You will want to play to see just how cool it is, and make no mistake, it IS very cool.  As you will learn, turn talk into type.  Right out of the box, with either version, prepare to be amazed.  I’d say that most consumers would do very well with the Standard Edition.

There is also a Professional Edition as well as specialized editions for the legal and medical professions.   Learn more these other editions HERE.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance is capable of many things rolled into one very comprehensive product. The obvious includes your speaking then seeing the words flow into the open window in documents and email, but there is so very much more.

The software is already set up to work with any Windows program, from Vista Mail and Outlook to very likely every common Windows application you now use.  In addition, your voice can control computer functions that include launching applications and maneuvering through windows and commands.  Surf the Web with your voice!

As with most multifaceted applications, practice makes (close to) perfect.  And then practice some more.  It is not the fault nor responsibility of the product that I am not an instant expert at using it.

Even now I am still far from proficient, but I am getting there, slowly but surely.  I’ve only been at it for a couple of weeks.  I’m concentrating on email and basic writing skills using Microsoft Word. During usage, this practice trains the mind to respond to the needs of the program and not in ways we already use these programs via the keyboard.

For example, as I speak what it is I intend should appear as text, I have to remember that the headset is on, the microphone is live and that what it is I say is heard.  The software cannot discern between a comment to someone nearby or what I am saying that is intended to be heard by the software and result in text.  If I misspeak, I need to remember to say the verbal command that undoes this misspoken word or phrase – “scratch that.”  There is even a method for verbally telling the software to turn off the microphone.  Are you getting all of this?

It’s pretty heady stuff to take in. I suggest that you watch the WOW demo available. It will both delight and enthuse you.

And then there are the macros – one command that results in more than one thing happening.  For example, I can write an email message that ends with a simple command to insert my closing.  During the time I configured the software, I set up this closing to drop down a couple of lines when I call for the closing and then to insert, for example, my regards and signature, even the insertion of my colorful logo, all with a simple, single spoken command.

The software has the intelligence to know when to do what.  For example, if using voice to enter a complete address, it knows to abbreviate the state name using standard USPS terms and to insert punctuation as required along with the Zip Code as I speak it.  It also knows when it hears something like, “meet me at the meat counter” that there is meet and there is meat.  It knows which is which!

Speaking of punctuation, the software is always listening and calculating the need for proper mid-sentence punctuation.  As I speak, I see my words building in a preview of what it is I am saying.  By the time those spoken works appear on the screen, the appropriate punctuation is inserted, as is capitalization of proper names.  It’s really magical to experience.

If the software cannot understand me by virtue of the fact that it messes up or I do, I can command it to go into spelling mode wherein it presents in a list some of the possibilities that may be correct, each presented in numerical order. If one among the group is correct, I can say, “choose four” and that fourth choice of a word is what is selected and that is what appears.  Alternatively, I can select to spell the word letter by letter.

Rather than go on and on in a fashion that may be counterproductive and needlessly complicated for everyone unfamiliar with this powerful software, let me just say that Dragon NaturallySpeaking is so much more than what meets the eye.  With dedication and practice it might be your favorite computer sidekick, freeing you from many keyboarding tasks and significantly speeding up everything you do at your computer.  In other words, you will be more productive. After all, it absolutely types faster and more accurately than you and I, and the more it is used, the more fun it is to use and the more productive you can be.

Anything not to love about this software?  Nothing that is a deal-breaker for most Windows users.  There is one quirky thing I did learn, however.  As many of you know, new Macs can easily run Windows, and that is what I do.  My best Windows computer is also my Mac.  It runs Windows better than any of my Windows-only computers.  Since I am a Mac-preferred guy, I wanted to install Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance in Windows on my Mac. I run both Windows XP and Vista.  Here’s the quirk from Nuance.  Even though many of us have caught on and use our Macs in this dual personality mode, Nuance has stated that they do not support the product in this circumstance.  They will not support users who install this product using Parallels, VMWare or Apple’s BootCamp (the three top ways Mac users can run Windows on Macs).  Why this is I do not now and, frankly, it does not make sense to me, but it is what it is and now you know, too.  On the other hand, Mac users have their own solution and you are only a paragraph away from learning what that is.

Learn more about Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance hereCall 1-800-654-1187 for more informationBuy from retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, DataVision, Fry’s Electronics, J&R Computer World, Micro Center, Office Depot, Office MAX, and Staples.

For those of you who, as I, prefer the Mac to anything that Windows can offer, there’s a solution.  The same core “engine,” the Dragon Engine that makes NaturallySpeaking do what it does so well in Windows is also at the core of a new application for Mac users.  MacSpeech Dictate is the product and the newest version is almost ready.  In development for at least two years and shown at this year’s Macworld Expo in January, I am hopeful that this next revision of shipping product with more of the features we want will be released before the end of June, 2008, in a little over a month from now.  Demos were exciting to watch and I can’t wait to use it myself.  MacSpeech Dictate will operate on Intel-based Macs only and sells for $199.  It is developed and distributed by a different company than Nuance, the company behind NaturallySpeaking for Windows. It is just that they share technology at their core.

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