Any Thoughts on Speech Recognition Software?

You may have noticed a bit of a drop-off in in-depth posts round here lately. Part of that was ye holidays, part of it’s the seasonal blahs (when the sky’s gray for the billionth day in a row, productivity drops and brooding rises), but there’s also the fact that when the weather makes an abrupt change from dire to delightful, the wrists don’t react well. They want a break. I don’t want to give it to them, because there’s too much interesting stuff to write about. Luckily, these days, they can have their break without mucking up the blogging. It only requires finding the proper speech recognition software.

That’s where you lot come in. Some among you must have favorites. What should I get as my software secretary, my Archie Goodwin or Ms. Lemon, the software that will efficiently take my dictation and (hopefully) set my brain free? Of course, software probably hasn’t achieved those heights yet, so I’ll settle for something that doesn’t make me want to strangle it every ten seconds. Thank you in advance for your recommendations, my darlings!

Any Thoughts on Speech Recognition Software?

16 thoughts on “Any Thoughts on Speech Recognition Software?

  1. 3

    I would suggest Dragon: Naturally Speaking. It is customized to your voice. It comes in two versions. One is cheaper and can only be used to type in a word processor and the other one is more versatile and can be used on any text field. It has good pick but it has a bit of trouble keeping up when I talk fast; as I am wont to do in the fit of a really smashing idea.

  2. 4

    For years one of our staff members used Dragon Naturally Speaking, and we had it installed in one of our labs for a class that taught it. With Win 7 the staff member switched to Win 7 built-in recognition, and so did the class. We don’t care one way or the other, we just set ’em up as requested. So they must think the 7 recognition is OK. Since it’s free, try that first then switch to Dragon if it doesn’t cut it.

    I do suggest using a good headset mic rather than the one built into your laptop.

  3. 6

    Also Dragon. A colleague of mine has used it for years. It does take some time to get used to, but you can theoretically not just take dictation but also edit with it. However, definitely get a good headphone/mic set as that makes all the difference.

  4. 7

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  5. 8

    You may, as previously noted, already have something available. Poke around. What OS and device(s) do you want to have sprechognition for?

    Options/pointers to potentially already extant applications:

    Dragon seems pretty good when working properly, but when something goes wrong, it friggin’ implodes, requiring a complete reinstall and re-training.(Of course, people who keep plain backups of their user files will always fare better, and if you don’t tend to have computer problems, you are probably good to go.) It is also a bit of a hog, so if you tend to have multiple background processes, apps, documents, and browser tabs open, have plenty of RAM as well. I don’t know about how other systems behave.

    Good luck!

  6. 9

    I used the Windows built-in speech recognition software last year for about three months when I bruised cartilage in my wrist (wrists lose fights with pavement. Who would’ve thought?). The main things going for it are that it’s cheap (free) and convenient (already installed). Problem: In my experience, it’s about on-par with stuff you would’ve paid about $300 for eight years ago. So you kind of get what you pay for.

    It’s a clunky for corrections and controls. I often found myself one-handedly deleting stuff manually because it was easier than trying to get the speech recognition software to work for it instead of typing out the orders I was giving it repeatedly. It doesn’t recognize technical language very well (even stuff you supposedly don’t have to train it to recognize). As I was writing my thesis at the time, this was a big problem. Its contextual recognition is not that great, so I had a lot of they’re/their/there sorts of mistakes, and expect to have to exaggerate your pronunciations a lot – I did drama and public speaking in high school, I’ve worked as a TA, and do public speaking as part of my job now, so I’ve got pretty good enunciation, but this was ridiculous. I practically had to contort my face Jim Carry style to get we’re/where/were to be recognized reliably, for example. Supposedly, it was semi-intelligent, but I assume that only worked if you could train it with voice commands, which as I said above don’t work so well, since it didn’t seem to learn at all from my manual corrections over the three months. Sometimes, it was so aggravating that I did my writing in about fifteen minute shifts because I would’ve smashed something otherwise.

    Finally, if you’re going to use it, invest in a directional mic or a headset because otherwise you’ll either wear your voice out half-shouting at it or have it piss you right the heck off when it picks up background noise and writes nonsense which you then have to delete manually (nowhere is quiet enough for it to not pickup background noise if your sensitivity is set so you don’t strain your voice, I found). This, I think, is not unique to the Windows software.

    But, hey, it’s free, so I can’t complain too much I guess.

  7. 10

    My son has a learning disability and uses Dragon. It works ok for him, but we have noticed that my husband’s smart phone seems to recognize speech faster and more accurately.

  8. 11

    Dragon Naturally Speaking, works fine with my Aussie accent. :-). Does take a bit of timer to train. Another advantage is I use it along with a Sony IC Voice recorder when I am out and about, then Dragon will turn that into text for me when I am back in office.


  9. 12

    I’ve tried several versions of Dragon, and frankly, it’s terrible.

    Now terrible may be a miracle and very empowering if you are disabled, but if you are only halfway to a bad case of RSI, than it’s terrible, because it is so frustrating in general, that you end up just going back to typing.

    And I have the newest version, and it is still very Windows oriented. Meaning it works best with Microsoft programs, and famous Windows programs, and works poorly with Internet apps.

    It can interact with Internet Explorer, but not Chrome, and Firefox poorly. It can interact with Hotmail, but very poorly with Gmail. It can do Word, but it can’t do emacs.

    If you are going to use it, make sure your computer is FAST. And I don’t mean fast, I mean T  S     A          F. And get a good microphone for it, like a USB Buddy 7 from buddy microphones. I have no affiliation with Buddy, but everyone will tell you that Dragon works better the better your microphone. (As a side benefit I route all my voip microphone input through the buddy mic, and everyone tells me my calls are much better.)

  10. 15

    We use Dragon at work to caption calls for the deaf/hard of hearing. No idea what oliverrcrangle is talking about, perhaps they didn’t train it? You’ll need to train any vr software, plus it helps if you control your voice a bit, even tone, little inflection etc.

  11. 16

    I am quite happy as a longtime Dragon user. While much of Olivercrangle’s criticisms are valid, his requirements appear to be extraordinarily unusual. I didn’t know that anybody still used Emacs (I use vi but coding isn’t all that much typing, really, so I don’t bother to use Dragon for that).

    If you use it with compatible software, you’ll be fine. I use mostly for writing, and the Word support is quite good. Investments in time to train for your voice will be handsomely repaid; it really does get better the more training you do. Your computer should have a lot of memory — I tried using Dragon on a notebook with 1.5gb of RAM, and smoke practically started pouring out of the machine when I tried to speak…

    A headset with boom mic that gives you consistent placement of the mic relative to your mouth is important; I do fine on a $30 Logitech purchased at Radio Shack.

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