Thursday, April 02, 2009

Despite being a skeptic . . I'm impressed

You would think that since I've made a career of working with speech recognition technology that I would be wildly enthusiastic about it and just like a carpenter with a hammer would see every problem as a nail. Not so with me!

I got into this technology reluctantly and have remained largely skeptical ever since. It's just in the past few years I have become truly comfortable in recommending voice recognition technology as a viable and solid technology to be used in business solutions. Even then, I'm careful and conservative in when and how I make that recommendation. I have to be 100 percent confident that the proposed solution can succeed and will prove successful both in the mind of the user and the business.

Along the way I've tried, sampled and tested almost everything offering including the desktop recognition packages from IBM's ViaVoice, Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking and most recently the speech recognition included in Microsoft's Windows Vista. After every one of these trials, I've uninstalled or disabled the recognition package and gone back to my keyboard. While they worked to a greater or lesser degree they never "excited me" and often were more trouble than they were worth.

Despite previous mediocrity, I keep trying new versions or products. This week I finally got around to installing Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking 10, after it lay on my desk for month's.

The installation process was quick and easy with no complications and once installed the product walked me through a basic set process to set and calibrate the audio input source (I have multiple devices with microphones attached to my Dell Vostro with Windows Vista) and complete a short training exercise by reading a Dave Barry column so that Naturally Speaking could create a user profile for me. All done in less than one half hour from start to finish, including time to download and install the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable.

For those of you who know me in person, you'll no doubt remember that I have a distinct southern accent, having grown up near Memphis, TN. One of the user configuration options was a choice of languages that included General US or Southern US. I resisted temptation and chose General just to test Naturally Speaking a bit more.

Now after a few days of use, I have to admit amazement! The recognition is incredibly accurate and quick. I've not typed an instant message or email so far this week. All have been dictated using Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking 10. In fact this entire blog entry was done using speech dictation.

I've only experienced two problems:

1) Some issues with product names or proper names like Vostro, which require correct.

2) I think I need a more highly directional microphone for my headset. I listen to my local public radio station in the background while at my desk and if I'm quite without telling the software to stop listening it will start transcribing the conversation on KUOW 94.9 that's playing in the background. This might make it difficult to use Dragon in a loud office or call enter environment.

That's my two cents worth . . . and if you're interested, I have a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0 that I never got around to installing. It's for sale on eBay!

1 comment:

nsj said...

This is so timely. I'm an industry analyst that covers speech and I've had a copy of the latest Dragon sitting on my desk for two months. I was going to load it next week and blog with it. Now I'm inspired. Thanks!