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Now every once in a blue moon a new application or piece of software comes along which you think will change your life in an infinitely better way, and Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 certainly seemed to fit the bill.
Hailed as an application that would change the way you use your PC forever, allowing you to send emails and instant messages, surf the web and create documents, all by simply speaking rather than using your keyboard or mouse, this Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 seemed the perfect life changing enhancement I had been craving for.
This software basically works by the user talking into a microphone or headset and converting your speech into text, thus eliminating the use of your keyboard. I was going to become a professional, and the worlds fastest touch typist overnight! Or so I thought.
And what convinced me more to purchase this software was a demonstration of it on one of the shopping channels.The over-eager spokesman for Nuance (the company that makes Dragon Naturally Speaking) proclaimed its virtues, stating that it was 99% accurate in translating your voice into text. Indeed the Nuance spokesman even spoke the following tongue-twister into the microphone and the software easily, and with assured accuracy, typed out the whole tongue-twister perfectly, without any mistakes whatsoever. The sentence was "Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager managing an imaginary menagerie".
Wow, I thought, not only can this software type accurately just by hearing your voice, it can actually pick up all those slight deviations and subtle voice changes and can easily, and accurately distinguish between them.
That demonstration completely sold me, and I purchased the software in eager anticipation.
The installation of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 went smoothly, without a hitch. On my desktop was an icon for the software which I duly clicked in order to open the application. The software asks you to set up a user name and then it walks you through easy steps about setting up the microphone that you are going to use ( Either a dedicated headset or a microphone from your webcam). Once this is chosen, the software then configures it, adjusting the volume setting of your microphone, and then checking the audio quality. Once satisfied the 'Dragon Bar' opens up, giving you plenty of options to configure the software to your satisfaction.
To improve the applications ability to type your spoken words correctly, there is a 'perform general training' option which once executed, gives you various excerpts from books or speeches, which are of varying degrees of length. Once read, the software stores your voice and the readings which supposedly enhances the software's ability to type your spoken word faster and in a more accurate manner. The more 'general training' that is performed, the more accurate Dragon Naturally Speaking is supposed to be!
I did this training for almost a week, reading various transcripts, some of which can take a few hours (on the longer ones obviously) giving my new software the chance to recognise my voice better, and ultimately, to become more accurate.
So I opened up my Word software, and the Dragon Naturally Speaking application, and started to talk into my microphone, hoping, and to a certain extent expecting, my speech to be typed word for word without hardly an error. How wrong I was!!!!
Despite extensive 'training of the software' on my part, the software fell way short of what I was led to believe, or had expected. The application constantly failed to type what I had spoken and sometimes even made up its own words or sentences. I felt deflated and totally let down. They claim an accuracy of 99%, unfortunately, in my experience it was more like 70%. What a let down!
Over the following months I trained the software more and more to be more accustomed to my voice but the results were still very disappointing.
In my final analysis, I do not think the software comes anywhere near the claimed accuracy, and If I had any illusions of becoming a professional typist overnight then I came crashing back down to Earth with a resounding bump! Whilst this application of 'speech to text' seems a very good idea in principle, I fear the current technology available to make software of this nature, is still, sadly, way off the mark!
To show you the accuracy (or lack of) I will now read the first four paragraphs of the review using the Dragon Naturally Speaking application, giving you, the reader, the chance to decide for yourselves!
Here's how Dragon naturally Speaking dealt with the first four paragraphs of this review:
While every once in a blue wall in your application and use our software comes along which you think will change your life in an infinitely better way, I'm Dragon NaturallySpeaking nine certainly seemed to think that they'll stop
Hailed as an application that would change the way you use your PC forever, allowing you to send e-mails and instant messages, surf the web and create documents, or by simply speaking rather than using your keyboard or mouse, this Dragon NaturallySpeaking nine seemed the perfect life changing enhancement I had been craving for stop
This software basically works by the user talking into a microphone or headset and converting speech into text, thus eliminating the lip of the use of your keyboard. I was going to become a professional, the world's fastest touch typist overnight! Or so I thought.
And what convinced me more to purchase the software that demonstration of it on one of the shopping channels. The overeager spokesman for new ones racket the company that makes Dragon NaturallySpeaking) proclaimed its virtues, stating that it was 99% acrylate in translating your voice into tax. Indeed the Nuance spokesman events for the following 10 twister into the microphone under software easily, and with assured accuracy, typed out to all 10 twister perfectly, without any mistakes whatsoever. Sentence was "emerging and imaginary menagerie manager managing an imaginary energy"
What do you think?
During a recent assignment at work I had encountered efficiency difficulties with regards to a report I was drafting. Whilst I am comfortable typing, and reasonably fast, I am not a touch typist and cannot type hundreds of words per minute. My main problem is that I have developed a habit of reading over what I have just written and formatting the text to make sure it makes perfect sense whilst I am typing the document, hence wasting even more time.
I had a disagreement with a manager who stated that I should be dictating the reports and then giving the tapes to our secretaries to type up and present in the correct format.
Good dictation involves a lot of skills and I do not posses these. I cannot mind map and find it difficult to dictate long reports as I lose track of where I am up to.
I suggested the idea of speech to text software packages as a solution to this problem, since this combines the speed of speech and the ability to see exactly what has been said to avoid duplication and ensure that everything is covered. I thought that it would stop me formatting the document as I was drafting it. Once the document was finished it could then be given to the secretaries to put it in to the report format, review it and check it makes sense and is grammatically correct.
There are not many speech to text software packages available on the market, and after bit of research, the best one appeared to be that of the Dragon naturally speaking range. Whilst there are many previous versions of this software the current one was version 9.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 ("DNS9") is speech to text software produced by Nuance (formerly ScanSoft). Basically it does what it says on the box. You speak and it types.
Nuance claim that this software is 99% accurate, i.e. there is no more than one word in every hundred that it is wrong. I have been using this software for the last five months and in my experience Nuance is way off the mark with this, unless my elocution is really bad and I have a speech impediment. In my experience I would say that the software is around 85% accurate.
There are two versions of DNS9 being a wired and a wireless version. The wireless version includes a wireless headset (linking to your PC or laptop via blue tooth technology) whilst the wired version includes a headset that directly plugs in to the microphone and headset ports of your PC or laptop. Other than the wired/wireless features there are no other differences between the two versions.
Being a bit of a gadget freak I liked the idea of wireless although I was unsure whether I was prepared to justify the additional cost for the privilege. DNS9 wired can be bought for a little under £77, whereas the wireless version costs a little under £150. In the end the decision was made for me as my employer purchased the software, and to my surprise (my employer is tighter than the proverbial duck's a**e) the management board opted for the blue tooth wireless version.
DNS9 arrived with a Plantronics CS60 DECT wireless headset that in all honesty was not that good. Whilst the headset was small, lightweight, discreet and comfortable to wear, the microphone was a fair distance away from my mouth and it did not pick up what I was saying very well. I am quite softly spoken but even talking above my 'normal' volume it was still a bit hit or miss. The headset also picked up a lot of background noise, which confused the program with some strange results.
My employer decided to chop the wireless version in for the normal wired version. The wired version did not include any headset so we were supplied with normal plug in microphones that we could hold and speak in to. This solution is not as 'techy' as headsets, and it is not fully hands-free, but at least the software started typing what was actually being said.
On first installation of the software you have to set up the user. This is very simple and is a case of following the on-screen instructions. It is important to set the user voice profile and the software does this automatically. By speaking in to the microphone the software measured the volume and pitch and sets the microphone levels accordingly.
Nuance stated that DNS9 is better than previous versions because there is no need to train the software. It is simply a case of plug in the microphone and start talking. This is rubbish. Whilst you can 'plug and play' the results will be poor and the document will be full of errors.
Every user has to train the software to some degree. This involves selecting the "accuracy centre" tab, selecting a piece of text (ranging from basic to intermediate to advanced) and then reading it out loud, speaking in to the microphone. You read the highlighted word and as you say it the software measures volume, pitch etc and stores how different words are said.
Training the software is an on-going process and it improves the accuracy no end. However, this is not a short task. All in all I would estimate that I have spent over 15 hours reading different pieces of text in order to train the software and there is still vast room for improvement.
DNS9 can be used with a whole range of applications including Microsoft Word, other word processing packages and for Internet browsing as well as its own Dragon Pad, which is basically a notepad.
The toolbar will appear at the top of the screen displaying tabs of all the options that are likely to be needed. The tool bar does not contain as many features as that of Microsoft word but then this amount of features is not required using this software.
It is possible to edit the text and correct errors via speech recognition, however I would not recommend this due to the accuracy issues. In my experience, I found that trying to edit the text via speech recognition created more problems and issues than were there originally, resulting in having to go back and manually adjust using the keyboard and this saved at no time whatsoever. In fact, it made it worse and was more of a chore.
Whilst DNS9 can be used for Internet browsing, I would not recommend using it for this purpose. In my experience, I have had many problems and issues with accuracy and ended up reverting back to using the keyboard, which defeats the objective, and it saved me no time whatsoever.
The concept of full and accurate speech to text and voice command Internet browsing of DNS9 is fantastic, however it does not live up to its claim and there are limitations.
If any words are slightly slurred or if there are breaks in the middle of sentences the program tends to do funny things and type words that it thought it heard even though the resulting sentence will be nonsensical. In reality to get a computer to carry out reasonableness or grammatical checks from a spoken command is a lot to ask and, personally I don't think it would be possible to incorporate such a feature in to a software package.
If working on a document by myself I find that the accuracy issues with DNS9 does not save that much time and I have to go back and manually adjust errors. I would not even contemplate trying to adjust or correct errors through voice recognition since I think it would create even more problems that would need sorting out.
In my experience, DNS9 comes into its own is when I am dictating letters or doing reports where all I have to do is dictate the narrative and results to get them down on paper and then pass it to the secretaries to format the document, check it over and ensure it all makes sense and is grammatically correct.
Providing you have a steady flow of words the program copes quite well. Therefore, if you are reading from pre-written text and are not doing it off the cuff like you would be in dictation then it works really well. This is useful if someone has a hard copy of a document that you want to email to someone but you do not have a scanner since you read it, the software types it on word, you check it and then the electronic copy can be emailed.
It would be fantastic if this software were 100% accurate for my review writing, however, it is not and I find it easier and quicker to use the keyboard and type my reviews in the traditional manner.
Personally I have no use for this software at home therefore, I cannot recommend it for most people, although I do think it would be useful for students that write essays or for individuals who write a lot of letters.
Whilst I find the software useful for work it does not replace my secretary and I don't think that speech to text software will ever be good enough to replace a person. The benefits of the package do not outweigh the cost, therefore I would not even recommend this software to business users.