Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting more done with Dictation: a Review of Dragon Dictate for Macintosh

I became extremely busy lately. Even though I have reclaimed time spent recording the “Sex is Fun Show,” life as an interesting way of re-tasking idle moments. Jade and I have to run our children to various clubs and sporting events 6 days per week and work, it seems, has become a relentlessly demanding beast. But because we have created a relationship with those that have read my book, my articles, and listened to our podcasts, this blog has become very important to me and Jade and I want to continue contributing to it.
I am an exceptionally fast typist and have been since I was very young. It was in about the 3rd grade where I realized I was a touch typing and no longer needed to use my eyes to search for keys. By the time I took a typing class in the 5th grade, my speed and accuracy exceeded every other student in the classroom. Now I type at nearly the speed of thought, and though that may have something to do with the vast degree of typos in my average article submission, my speed has kept me from using dictation software or dictating for a human transcriber. But, I have an hour each day where I'm alone with my thoughts and as long as I keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road, I can use this time to contribute to the blog without stealing time from my family, my career, my friends, or making sweet-sweet love to Jade.
So I got myself a copy of Dragon Dictate software and I installed it on my MacBook Pro. The installation process was relatively straightforward. Of course don’t believe in reading manuals and l most things I install on my computer I expect to be performed using nothing but intuition. Therefore, my only setback was that I did not realize there were 2 DVDs in the box and instead of beginning with the installation disk,I was attempting to install off the libraries disk which it asks for later in the installation process. The headset is relatively comfortable and plugs in via 2 mini connectors through a USB dongle. I believe that you can use any microphone and headphone as long as it is plugged through this dongle, though I have not felt the need to attempt trying a different headset.
Once fully installed, the program guides you through a training mode where it learns to understand your dialect, accent, and nuances of your voice. This is done by reading text that appears on the screen and highlights as you read each word. I did like that the text was essentially a user guide to Dragon software as it taught me quite a bit about voice recognition technology. I certainly preferred that to being forced to read some unrelated story as though I was going to be taking a reading comprehension test afterward. Just as I was getting into the guts of the manual, the program stopped and told me that it listened enough and could accurately turn my words into text. So I popped open my mail application and sent out a few instructions to my underlings and minions.
I had very low expectations as my current experience with voice recognition is often telling my phone to, “find the nearest gas station.” and instead it would map the closest store that sold, “Playstations.” Why would anyone need that kind of information in the first place? But the program works quite flawlessly with a surprising degree of accuracy. It does allow you to speak quite naturally except for punctuation and various proper nouns. It works in every application that I've attempted to use it in and this includes nearly every application I own that accepts text entry. The only thing I found tricky is that I have to consciously think about where I would like pauses and commas to be placed, whereas ending sentences with the appropriate punctuation is something I already got used to from medical dictation.
How well does it work? You tell me...
This is the ultimate test. I am now halfway to work and I'm using the microphone in the car for the 1st time. My laptop is sitting in the passenger seat and I have dimmed the screen to full darkness so that I'm not tempted to allow my eyes to stray off the road. When I get into the office I will post whatever the software has decided to write, with the only editorial exception of capitalizing Jade’s name which it never seems to realize is a name.
Reich Kidder and tell him your thoughts on anything he writes at cape-her life.com
Dragon Dictate Photo
Company: Nuance
Product: Dragon Dictate 2.0 Mac.
Price: $199
Best Price on Amazon: $142.76
Product Score: [4.5]-:-[5]
What could they have done to get [5]-:-[5]?
Make the software understand punctuation based on sentences structure, natural pauses, emphasis and pitch so that I feel more like I’m having a conversation than dictating. Be better at realize the difference between proper nouns and nouns.

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