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.
|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|
|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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