ergonomic products Input Devices RSI RSI Software software

The future is here

As I’ve alluded to before, for me, one of the most memorable scenes from the film, “Minority Report”, was when the “precrime” police officers interface with a large, transparent computer screen using arm movements, gestures and voice. This concept has immediate appeal to any RSI sufferers – imagine no longer using a tendon/muscle disabling device such as a mouse in order to interact with a computer. Ever since seeing  that in the film, I have had high hopes of reality catching up with science fiction, as often happens.

KinectAs it turns out, the movie was indeed quite prescient. Already we are seeing the trend towards computer tablets and anyone who has marvelled as they swished their fingers around an iPad screen, for example, will question whether they would ever willingly choose to use a mouse again. Not only that, Apple have now introduced some (by most accounts) rather impressive voice recognition software, namely Siri. Microsoft can’t be left out of the future, and the promise that their Kinect technology holds, if their slick ads are anything to go by, takes it well beyond the realms of Xbox games. Indeed, it has just been announced that Kinect is continuing its move towards Windows compatibility (next year) with the release of a SDK (software development kit) which will allow developers to create applications and games enabling the use of the Kinect add-on in Windows 8. After Kinect for Windows is released in 2012, in the words of Microsoft, “… the potential goes exponential”.

So I am feeling encouraged that the days of punishing input devices are numbered and that users will soon be able to interact entirely through natural body movement and voice. I picture the day when we see a mouse on display at the museum and chortle at how primitive a tool it was.

The future is arriving and it’s looking bright!

ergonomic products Ergonomics Input Devices RSI RSI Software

Microsoft Kinetic soon to be available for PC?

After much success with the Kinetic motion capture/control system (formerly project Natal), Microsoft is thought to be soon releasing the gesture control system for the PC, including laptop and tablet type devices. This could soon start a revolution in computer input. According to this article Microsoft has applied for a US patent called ‘Gesture Keyboarding’ and this article suggests Kinetic for the PC may be imminent, so we have potentially revolutionary times for all RSI sufferers. It will however remain to be seen whether any gesture control system can match the productivity of the keyboard and mouse, but its about time we had a viable alternative!

RSI Software

Windows Speech Recognition

I have long been an owner of an earlier version of Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking (version 7 I think) and have had much frustration in the past mainly due to the the software’s inability to recognise regional accents, well my accent anyway! Nuance appear to have a policy of no trial before buy with Naturally Speaking, which is a shame since I don’t feel like stumping up £80 to try out version 10 (once bitten etc etc), especially if it ends up that I find that it doesn’t meet my needs or expectations. I certainly don’t see why Nuance can’t make a time limited evaluation copy available for download. Maybe they think that potential buyers won’t be impressed with their software and won’t buy as a result, who knows …

Not being so much of a computer tech geek these days since succumbing to RSI, I have only just realised that both Windows Vista and Windows 7 ship with Microsoft Speech Recognition engine in them for free. Go to Windows Start menu and type in “Windows Speech Recognition” and hit ‘Enter’. You can use your computer’s inbuilt microphone, but may find much better results with purchasing a separate headset with microphone which sits approximately 3 cm from your mouth. The better quality the mic/headset, the better the results will potentially be.

The speech recognition engine from Microsoft appears to be reasonably usable. I quickly was able to enter the learning text. I was also quite surprised at how well it performed given the ultra quick learning cycle, and my low toned Scottish accent.

My trial in using this software is just beginning, and I’ll report back with a more detailed analysis later, but initial impressions are quite positive with certain reservations eg it works (or more accurately works with full features) only when using Microsoft applications, ie Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, Notepad, Wordpad etc, and only partially with some third party applications like Open Office and not at all with others eg Firefox (my usual browser, which it also appears to slow down). If I set Microsoft’s monopolistic tendencies aside, and try it out with their software, I find that it does a reasonable job of making Internet Explorer navigable with speech.  I would have preferred a little more help, however, with finding typical commands available to use with the browser. The windows help on the subject is reasonable, but not great. The few commands I did manage to find are as follows –

Windows 7/Vista Speech Recognition Commands for Internet Explorer 8. If anyone finds any more be sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this.

Speech Function
START LISTENING turns on speech recognition
STOP LISTENING turns off speech recognition
OPEN INTERNET EXPLORER opens internet explorer browser
MINIMISE INTERNET EXPLORER minimises internet explorer browser to the task bar
SWITCH TO INTERNET EXPLORER opens internet explorer browser from taskbar
CLOSE INTERNET EXPLORER closes internet explorer browser
BACK Back button
HOME Home button
FORWARD Forward button
STOP Stop button
REFRESH Refresh button
CLICK ‘link name’ Click on link with name ‘link name’
HOVER / HOVER OVER THAT Hover over menu to display contents
CLICK ADDRESS BAR Click on and select address bar
CLICK GOOGLE Click on Google search bar
SHOW NUMBERS generates numbers for every link on browser
TEN OK selects link number 10 displayed in SHOW NUMBERS above
PAGE UP scroll page up by one page
PAGE DOWN scroll page down by one page
SCROLL DOWN scroll page down by approx 1/2 page
SCROLL UP scroll page up by approx 1/2 page
bookmark name speak bookmark name to select your bookmark (or use numbers to select it)
PRESS CONTROL TAB navigates to next tabbed page
PRESS CONTROL SHIFT TAB navigates to previous tabbed page

Who knows whether speech recognition will ever be a complete replacement for a keyboard and mouse, but with a free copy embedded in Windows 7 and Vista it’s certainly well worth a try out.

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