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David Pogue has just reviewed the newest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software in the NY Times business section.
This software is great for anyone who can’t type. For students who have grave difficulties with writing and spelling, it might be a godsend.
NatSpeak’s principal mission is to type out whatever you say into any Windows program. With version 10 its maker, Nuance, claims to have eked out yet another 20 percent accuracy improvement.
In the early days of speech recognition the user had to read a 45-minute sample script to train the program to recognize your voice. Today, you can skip the training altogether.
How well does it work? Pogue read a thousand words of “Freakonomics” into the mike and the accuracy tally was 99.3 percent. (It did render “edition” as “addition,” and “portrayal” as “per trail,” but it managed “Punic Wars” and “Ku Klux Klan.”)
But spelling mistakes were zero. People who use NatuallySpeaking, says Pogue, never make typos, only “wordos.”
Nuance has improved accuracy by recognizing eight accents: general (none), Australian, British, Indian, Great Lakes (Buffalo to Chicago), Southeast Asian, Southern US and Spanish. Speed is another virtue. And it waits for a pause in your talking before it types, so that it can use context to choose the correct homonym.
The program also understands more “natural language” commands: saying “Italicise ‘gas prices’ ” accomplishes what used to take three commands; and the program returns to where you stopped. The trick also works with “bold,” “underline,” “delete,” “cut,” and “copy.”
You can speak a series of search commands, beginning with “Search computer for…,” “Search the Web for…,” “Search email for…” For example, “Search maps for Chinese restaurants near Hoboken;” “Search Wikipedia for Bay of Pigs;” or “Search images for Gwyneth Paltrow.”
Does NatuallySpeaking work on a Mac? Yes, but only when the Mac is running Windows and you’re using a USB headset adapter. And you can’t transcribe interviews with it; it only recognizes one person’s voice.
NatSpeak is available in several versions: the Standard Edition ($100), for barebones dictation; the Preferred Edition for $200 (Bluetooth mikes and recorders, and those natural commands); medical and legal editions for $1600 and $1200; as well as a Professional Edition ($900) for corporate administrators who manage many NatSpeak installations from a central server.
source: David Pogue’s article in the NY Times on 8/7/08. www.nytimes.com
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