* Prices may differ from that shown
I originally got introduced to speech recognition software after writing and recording two albums for different music projects, in search of a way to add experimental effects to vocal layers back in the late 90s. In those days speech recognition software was basic and limited. In today's day and age and with the improvement in technology software has greatly developed also, mostly speech recognition. I now use this software to do various tasks - such as write this review! Why? This is because you can speak approximately 140-160 words per minute compared to the average typing output of 40 words per minute. This allows me to do three or four more reviews by talking than what it would for me to do one while typing. If you spend a lot of at the PC typing this is a good investment to make. It is also fun and easy to pick up for most people. It is also much healthier too and assists into avoiding issues such as RSI.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 is the latest release to date and comes packed with a lot of options. For those unfamiliar with such software I'll state that this program claims to deliver 99% accuracy with no spelling errors when translating your spoken word via PC microphone into a computerised text format. In the past, speech recognition software required the average user to spend hours reading documents back in order for the program to recognise your voice to a reasonable standard. Now, with Dragon Naturally Speaking 10, most users can get started converting their voice to text in a matter of minutes of installation.
The things you can do with this program is quite vast, depending on the version you have. If you are new to this type of software, then I recommend you begin by purchasing the Standard edition. It also comes with a free headset for those who don't already own one.
My daily work consists of graphic and web design. I need multiple computers setup to get a good workflow and things can get hectic fast. With this software it enables me to multi-task design projects with email, browsing and even instant messaging. With my hands free to design I can deal with emails on another PC by voice and 'naturally speaking' to aid in the multi-tasking process. Programs I use Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 with is Firefox/Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word and MSN.
With a basic desktop 'DragonBar' you can enable/disable and interact with multiple programs at the same time, allowing you to switch between keyboard and voice to suit your needs by allowing you to work or use the computer hands-free.
To simplify what you can do with this edition - Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Standard, here is what it allows you to do:
Create and edit documents
Reply to and compose emails
Surf the web
Input voice to text into almost all open windows applications
Other than a work based tool, you could use this if you are a busy house keeper, or parent interacting with the PC with your children, someone who suffers from RSI, or wants to protect against such PC related strains and injuries to even turning your voice to text in online games such as World of Warcraft. This program has the potential to do it all.
If this isn't enough, there are other advanced versions out there that allow you to interact and integrate with mobile and Bluetooth devices, or for turning text into speech. The latter option (not included in the Standard version) allows you to setup the software to read aloud in human-sounding speech your own documents, or turn website articles or even ebooks into spoken word sound files, which allow you to play them back on your PC, or mobile device such as a cellular phone, iPad, or MP3 player.
The requirements to run Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Standard are:
Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64 1GHz
512MB RAM or 1GB RAM with Windows Vista
2GB free hard disk space
L2 Cache: 512KB
Windows Server 2000
Windows Server 2003
Win XP SP2 32bit Home & Professional
Win 2000 SP4
Windows Vista SP1, 32bit and 64bit
MS Internet Explorer 6
Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16bit recording soundcard
In regards to the many questions about 'how good is it?' You get a brief five minute tutorial, which collects and monitors your voice in the process before you begin. I can safely break this down for you in order to try explain how advanced this software is. Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Standard claims to be 99% accurate. This indeed is most probably the case, if not a little bit untrue for people with 'unusual' accents. For 'most' people I would say this is true, but I have a mixed accent, and a combination of a Cleveland, Middlesbrough and Yorkshire, Bradford accent combined with a Hampshire, Southampton accent, with a tendency to mumble certain words. This accent is quite unique when introduced to speech recognition software. It picked up most of my voice to text about 70-80% accuracy to begin with. After about half an hour extra invested in doing the tutorial some more, it became about 80-90% accurate. With a bit more time spent, working on the more complex commonly used words and names it hit around 95-99%!
The best thing from my experience with Dragon Naturally Speaking, is that 'you' can teach it how to understand 'you' better, with a little time and effort. If you say a unique name a lot, you can simply hit a button and type the name you want it to translate, then record yourself saying it, then hit save. After that it will produce 99% accuracy upon the next time you say that particular name or word.
All-in-all, this is a great piece of software to play around with and if you take your time at the PC, including your health seriously, this is well worth the time and money in doing so.
The price for this version was previously listed at around £80, but it is currently under £40 via Amazon. This is due to a new version being prepared and for less than £40 for what this program can do it is a great time to grab yourself a bargain.