Dragon Naturally Speaking is a program which types what you speak through a microphone. It is dissapointingly useless. My cousin and I attempted to use it, he started off by saying "Jason loves no one", which turned out fine. Then he decided to get rid of it and uttered the command "Back space ten words." which turned out as "backs based 10 words Vodafone." Anyway, here's the turnout:

"Jason loves No one backs based 10 words Vodafone are difficulties since she someone together poor are the time your work is not pro rata voice of a delete whole paragraph canny characters for an and a start-up summer for shiitake deals paying for the farm said bomber multi-user server ozone arm bomber hovel can't Cardiff shedding can pass over Delaney don computer are on bomb over the deal and and dirty JC Adele Dell will loomed easy veal Daniel ~~new kayak about its now work and cannot reach you can for shaving can watch you how Lenny ha ha ha 14 wow Art in the bomb over the Earl and a Hamish Carr and who eats her now Willow and and cannot lease is for the staff ha ha ha ha pollutant between War of heart in the name over the India have sharper than the the staff should assuage the issue# bomb bomb the contenders here on a standard bomb there were two sharper the# 0 bomb in the Aeneas Sally bomb the UMNO moment I am: all losing at I/O letter for I don't limit on show of the bit more than for no more War and and United States uses money spline to Art 0000 is one of the warms to Art later this is a in the list of listening ha ha ha for and get easily Descartes Hank Art in the don't Bahru: if the ha ha is self in begins to standard Art and he did losing bond is a bomb for 8 and and the gains the contenders NBT shut up and then ascension and and and broke and shut up there was the only weal and there are the article ha world of a long loll what hais ha is and and heads and enclosed my leg lift yours what happen will losers of the video of the with solitary finger deliver to the government to them to tour Pilgrim to the Doolittle glittering fromby expire at bad to Senator golf at what they are in a pay him little to dams to the role of $dawdle the little Prue Cole, the he is able loser car JA BAA is a loser of the debt is not Godolphin smells like a dog to have someone smells like a dog Hakka and and are mike and admire his individual Har and Wilton McDonough, from John A-Z Dragon Naturally Speaking you can it enormously listing something likes ball crack under trees or beside trees are ulcer having music playing for Christ's sake"

And that comes from the high quality program by the great people at Dragon!

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition, and dictation program from ScanSoft. In essence, Dragon allows you to dictate documents, compose email, and run a variety of programs using your voice alone.

The latest version of Dragon is V6.0, and this release of the application represents a vast improvement over previous versions (my experience is with V6.0 Preferred - there are more cut down versions, as well as versions with more advanced features). Whereas older versions had a lot of trouble accurately transcribing text, V6.0 is a product that is usable with minimal training, and should give you a high degree of accuracy after very little initial training. Personally, after no more than ten minutes running through the initial training text, I am able to dictate text with about 90% accuracy.

Features

Dragon Naturally Speaking is far more than a voice activated typewriter. In fact, it is possible to run your entire computer using voice commands alone. Among the things you are able to do using this software:

  • Dictate documents into Word Processing applications - Microsoft Word, and Corel WordPerfect have integrated support for Dragon, allowing you to vocally carry out practically any function in these applications as easily as using a mouse or a keyboard.
  • Compose email, open and read email, and manage your Inbox. Dragon is able to read your email back to you, using Text-to-Speech technology.
  • Browse the internet, with the ability to follow links, and interact with web pages with no reduction in functionality, compared with mouse or keyboard users.
  • Dictate into a Dictaphone while away from your computer, then have Dragon transcribe this into text at a later time.

It could be argued that some of these features, for example navigating web pages, is more difficult using Dragon than by using a mouse - and this is probably true on many occasions. However when considering features such as these, imagine a quadriplegic, and the difficulty they currently face using a computer. Being able to browse the web, open applications, navigate around their desktop - without having to move at all - is a feature that turns what could have been a frustrating, and slow experience, into one that is more natural, and far more user friendly.

Using the Program

Dragon is a very simple program to use, and is quite intuitive. Once the application is installed, you will need to optomise your headsets volume, and run through a sound quality test. After these are completed, you will read through a short training text - no more than seven to eight minutes of speech. On completion of this, user files are created for your particular voice, and you're up and running.

Commands are simple and intuitive. If you need to open Microsoft Word, you simply say 'Open Microsoft Word'. Assuming the program has recognised the command correctly, Microsoft Word will launch. This will work for any application that has a shortcut on the desktop - as long as Dragon hears the 'Open' command, then is able to find the application name that you said, that application will launch.

You can access the Start Menu, navigate through it, and open applications this way as well.

Dictating into a word processor is fast - you can speak at up to 160 wpm - and straight forward. The main thing to remember, is that the application has no way of knowing whether a pause in speech is a break for a comma, a full stop, or simply a pause as you compose the next series of words. So you must also dictate all your punctuation, formatting and navigation. So if you were to speak:

(open quotes) how bright your garden looks (exclamation mark) (close quotes) said (cap) gandalf (full stop) (new line) (open quotes) yes (comma) (close quotes) said (cap) bilbo (full stop) (open quotes) i am very fond indeed of it (comma) and of all the dear old (cap) shire (semi colon) but i think i need a holiday (full stop) (close quotes)

your result would look like this:

"How bright your garden looks!" said Gandalf.
"Yes," said Bilbo. I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire; but I think I need a holiday."

Although that may look very complicated at first, it really does become natural quickly, and you will soon be dictating formatted text without the experience feeling unnatural. If you then decided that you (for some reason) wanted the document to be in a different font, you could simply say:

'Select all'
'Set font Times New Roman 12'

The entire document would be selected, then changed into the selected font, in the selected size. Easy!

The Accuracy Question

Since I've been using Dragon, in preparation for the rollout currently in process to many Judges in my workplace, I've been surprised to find how many people have had experience with a Dragon product at some time in the past. They've all said similar things about their experiences - "It's not very accurate." While that may have been the case in previous versions of Dragon (and I've not had the chance to test any version apart from V6.0), it doesn't have to be the case now. However, I believe part of the negative experience that many people have with this product, and others like it, is that they do not take the time to train it properly. Even with this new version, the first time you start it up and start speaking, you will come across errors. If you think about it for a second though, this is hardly surprising. Dragon has a vocabulary of around 250,000 words. Based on less than 10 minutes of hearing you speak, it is not going to be 100% accurate. You will see errors - common ones I see are:

  • Running words together - Dragon may think you have said "Dragon Naturally Speaking's a" when you spoke "Dragon Naturally Speaking is a"
  • Two words with the same sound, but different meanings - "wood", "would". Dragon will try to use context knowledge to get around these problems - however if both words could fit, it may choose the wrong one.
  • Uncommon words that sound similar to common words - "Gimli the Dwarf" becomes "Dimly the Dwarf"

And here is the most important point to note if you want to use an application such as Dragon to its full potential - you must train it as it makes mistakes.

If Dragon makes a mistake, you are able to tell Dragon to correct the word or words it has transcribed wrongly. If you do this - choosing the incorrect words, and replacing them with the correct words through Dragon's Spell feature - Dragon will update your user files, and modify itself to your particular way of speaking. The next time you speak those words, it's highly likely that Dragon will transcribe correctly. The more you do this as you dictate, the more accurate Dragon becomes over time. Basically, the more you correct, the less you will need to correct. If you do not do this - if you simply delete the incorrect words, and replace them with the correct one, using Dragon will become a more and more frustrating experience for you. Correcting mistakes properly is not an option - it's vital.

The other factor that will contribute to your accuracy is the way you speak. You don't have to speak to Dragon like you're speaking to a child - but on the other hand, you can't expect it to be accurate if you speak like you would in normal conversation. If you speak clearly, try not to mash your words together in your sentences, and speak at a constant volume, Dragon will be perfectly happy. The Judges I have trained in Dragon are a great example of this - many of them are used to dictating into a Dictaphone, for their Associate to type up at a later point. When they spoke to Dragon in the same way, their first small paragraph spoken once they'd finished the initial training was 100% correct (which, incidentally, made it difficult to go onto train them in how to correct mistakes...)

The Proof is in the Pudding

Here is a short piece that I have dictated using Dragon - this is from a fresh install, about ten minutes training, and almost no correction following that training. What you read here is exactly as it was transcribed - I've corrected no errors. Formatting was applied as I spoke. Mistakes will be surrounded by a *, with what should have been transcribed noted at the bottom.

Prologue

1. Concerning Hobbits

This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of *West march*1 that *is*2 already been published, under the title of The *Hobbits*3. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the *Reader Book*4, composed by *Bill bowed himself, the first top*5 to become famous in the world at large, and called by him There and Back *The gain*6.

Corrections:

1. Westmarch
2. Has
3. Hobbit
4. Red Book
5. Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit
6. Again

Following this, I have made corrections to the above mistakes, and re-read the main paragraph again. This is Dragon's second attempt - following correction, there is a single error. Every word that tripped Dragon up the first time around, was transcribed correctly the second time around. The single word it got wrong was transcribed correctly the first time, so this error may be able to be put down to the way I dictated it the second time.


This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large, and called by him There and *Act* Again.





Sources:

Some technical details from www.scansoft.com/naturallyspeaking

It's a programme, developed by a company called Nuance Communications, that allows you to talk to your computer and it'll write it down for you. It is advertised as being 99% accurate.

As long as you have low standards and your not all that alarmed by simple grammatical miss takes, like the ones in this paragraph for example. But then again, we live in the age of txtspk so it's maybe just moving with the times.

Occasionally it comes up with something totally alarming and hilarious.

Like when I tried to write a sharply worded letter to an opposition landlord in one of my firm's cases, said opposition landlord having illegally evicted our client, I accidentally asked the little hoogstraten that was the other side to "provide our client with cheese, that he may regain access to the moon formerly occupied by him."

Or when I advised a client that he may be able to approach his local Environmental Health Officer over "conversation dampness."

The cake, though, is taken by my former boss. He accidentally sent off a letter which featured the line, "I have received the bastard's advice." I am pretty sure that learned counsel's parents were married.

I should try to write a node with Dragon NaturallySpeaking - and yes, it ALWAYS gets that phrase right. Tee hee hoddle ha. I wonder how accurate it would be. I suspect it would be very a cue rat indeed. It certainly wood not mix up simple words on a routine base is nor would it forget to add in punctuation Marx. Tie pose would be all but eliminated. While you can train it to be more accurate with your voice, this takes time and involves reading more passages from books out, and it's a bit of a drag.

What it doesn't get right are the fact that it picks up heavy breathing and puts in loads of unnecessary little words like "a" and "the" and "is" every verse end. You then spend just as much time going over what you've written and correcting everything, taking out the bits where it's written "As of December 2000 and eight," and suchlike that you end up taking just as much time as if you'd typed it.

Thankfully, if it wasn't for my ninja typing skills, there'd be a very bemused District Judge out there who'd have ordered our client to be given a stack of Stilton immediately upon service of this order upon the Defendant.

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