Teaching Dragon How to Talk Geology

So far, Dragon has passed every test I’ve set for it. It’s still going to take some getting used to, but it works much better than I expected. I’m especially impressed with its performance on difficult words. I expected to have to train it for days before would be able to recognize science terms, but so far it’s done very well. Once I get used to speaking punctuation aloud, I should be able to run around the house dictating while doing other things. This will be a remarkable boost to productivity, and my wrists won’t feel a thing. Huzzah!

Whoever came up with this is a genius. Or several geniuses. I’m sure it was more than one person.

Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium Edition: best thing evar.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium Edition: best thing evar.

I’m constantly amazed by this program’s capabilities. I trained it for about five minutes before it started working almost perfectly. It even recognizes words like subduction, which even WordPress doesn’t know. But the most impressive moment came when I tried to test it to destruction. I gave it one of the hardest words to understand that I could think of: blueschist. I doubt one in fifty people would know how to spell that word, but the only thing that I had to correct was the space between blue and schist. That’s remarkable for a computer program. The fact that it works this well out of the box, without having loaded any word lists or trained it with my own writing, is amazing.

Pretty soon, I’ll be using it to write our next Mount St. Helens post. Teaching it my preferred formats is very simple: all I had to do just then was tell it that I prefer St. rather than saint. Of course, we just got stuck in the weeds trying to write St. versus saint, but that was more my unfamiliarity with how Dragon works than anything else. It did at least know the difference between write and right. It’s early days yet, and I’ll get used to the way it does things.

In the interests of not having to stop to correct the dictation during geology posts, I’m going to try to confuse it right now. Let’s throw a list of geology words at it and see what it does.

Fall Cano.

Apparently, I need to teach it how I pronounce volcano. It got it just then, though. It’s amazing how quickly voice recognition software catches on. So let’s try this again:


Simple. Now let’s move on to difficult words.


It knew that one right off the bat. It’s far better at spelling than most of my friends. And it knows how to use apostrophes. I think I’m beginning to fall in love.


Well, this is almost boring. I expected this to be a challenge, but it’s having no trouble at all so far. However, I think I have a word that might stump it.

They cite.

Ha! Finally, a word it doesn’t get. Let me try one more time before teaching it.

Day site.

That’s closer. Let’s see if it pronounces this the way that I pronounce it in my head.


Apparently not. So now let’s teach it the word:


Perfect. All I have to do is spell the word, and then tell it to train. I speak it one time, and it knows what I’m talking about forever after. It’ll be interesting to see if giving it a geology vocabulary list will help it learn faster when I get into more complicated words later on. In the meantime, let’s see if we can stump it again, because that’s fun.

Crypto dome.

Oh, so close. Let’s explain to it that this is a compound word.


Excellent. Oh, and did I mention I’ve got Azam Ali playing in the background, I’m using the mic that came in the box, and I’m not speaking in a monotone? I’m not even speaking particularly slowly. Eventually, I imagine this is going to be like talking to an old friend. An old friend who likes taking dictation for me. I think I’m going to have to name it. I’m open to suggestions.

Meanwhile, let’s try some more of our words.


Holy crap in a hat, I didn’t even have to tell it to capitalize all that. Apparently, it knows who the USGS is. I wish this program had a body so I could hug it. I probably won’t spend all summer sitting in the house talking to it with the cat in my lap, but it’s tempting. There’s just something about watching technology figure things out that’s fascinating. Also, the cat enjoys the fact I don’t have to have my computer in my lap anymore. Bonus!

Right, let’s try another.


Well, this is no challenge at all. I think it’s going to do geology just fine. We’ll see what it does if I decide to read a technical paper to it, but I suspect it’ll have no trouble at all. In order to stump it, I’m going to have to try to teach it lolcat-speak next. That should be fascinating.

If any of you are wanting to get voice-recognition software of your own, I do recommend getting the premium edition. It’s smarter and it stores your voice profile, so you don’t have to start all over with subsequent upgrades.

So far, I’m extremely pleased with Dragon. I’m not even worried about whether the doc can fix my wrists or not. I mean, I’m sure they can, but it’s of absolutely no concern considering these wretched joints work well enough for everyday tasks, and Dragon is more than capable of handling all the writing for me. The only thing that could possibly be better is if it could pluck the words straight out of my head, punctuation and emphasis included. But I’m sure that’s not too far in our future.

Dang, I love the modern era!

Teaching Dragon How to Talk Geology
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12 thoughts on “Teaching Dragon How to Talk Geology

  1. rq

    And a *highfive* for our electronic friends! :D
    Good job with the new… pet? secretary? dictation-friend? pet-secretary-dictation-friend?

    I think I’m going to have to name it. I’m open to suggestions.

    Personally, I think calling it Dragon is badass (with maybe some sort of personalized or quirky first name to reflect the fact that it learns geology faster than most first-year students – or something like Daenerys Stonedragon; when it pisses you off, you can call it Pukis, which is from the Latvian pūķis (dragon), and yeah, you can pronounce it to sound like puke, even though that’s not the real pronunciation; for something closer to the real pronunciation, try Pookie), but then, I got a kick out of naming one of my computers The Feisty Maggot (soon to be a bar nowhere near anyone, haha!), so I don’t think you should listen to me here (current computer is The Bubble 2, as reincarnated from The Bubble – and I have had pets named Vovo, Sock, Sign and Flake, so yeah, don’t look to me for particularly creative and poetic naming!).

    *Pardon the nonsensical comment. Had a bad night of sleeping (or not sleeping as it were) due to Youngest sleeping in hour-long bursts – you know, enough for me to almost fall asleep but not enough to actually fall asleep.

  2. 2

    Hm, I will be interested in following this! I got Dragon a year or so ago and it was an abysmal failure at dealing with biology. It’s v11, which might be part of it, but I’ve also had issues with after I’ve taught it some of the bio words, it still gets all the rest wrong. Maybe I don’t speak well and it’s not training to my voice well, or my recorder just isn’t up to snuff (I have an Olympus digital recorder to use in class, and then upload the file). But if you’re having a good time with it, I might be inspired to try again…

  3. 3

    So I saw “Dragon” and thought “Space Capsule”! Oh well.

    For a name, how about “Smaug”? Cool dragon, lots of jewels, lives in a volcano, unfortunately robbed and murdered by dwarves.

  4. 7

    Whoever came up with this is a genius. Or several geniuses. I’m sure it was more than one person.

    If you’re curious, it was the creation of Drs. James and Janet Baker, who pioneered the program a lot of people now use.

    Unfortunately, the Bakers were royally screwed when they sold their program to a company (Lernout & Hauspie) that was engaging in ridiculous levels of accounting fraud. The bad news was, they were paid in company stock that immediately became worthless after L&H’s shoddy accounting practices came to light, and the company the Bakers hired to manage the deal (Goldman Sachs) didn’t do their due diligence by figuring out this company was basically a shell game (or, when they found this out on behalf of another client, failed to disclose this information to the Bakers), and pocketed $5 million in fees while the Bakers lost just about everything.

    The subsequent lawsuit they filed against Goldman failed, basically saying that investment banks have no fiduciary responsibility to protect their clients from fraud. So now the Bakers pretty much have nothing; the rights to their program were acquired by another company when L&H was dissolved, and they lost their case against Goldman only a couple months ago.


    I don’t mean to be a buzzkill. It’s a fantastic program, but its creators won’t see another dime from it.

  5. 9

    I used an earlier version when shoulder surgery banned me from the keyboard a couple years ago. I seem to remember somewhere in the setup asking permission to access your documents so it could gain familiarity with your vocabulary.

    What I remember for sure is the quality of the microphone used makes a huge difference in how well the program functions. don’t recall brands or models, but I went from a $10 mic to a $40 one and the program was suddenly useful.

  6. 12

    Dang. I was going to do that, but I couldn’t remember the name and all of my Pern books are currently inaccessible. I should have Googled something.

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