The End of My Dragon NaturallySpeaking Review

Well, it’s been a fun ride and interesting experience. The time has come for the Motion F5 to go to another team member and my exposure to speech technology draws to a close. The experience has been a mixed bag of jaw-dropping awe and computer-dropping frustration (don’t worry, I didn’t drop the F5). Since the last time I updated, I was able to pair the BT headset to the computer and had to retrain the software to work with the improved hardware. I also started writing a genetics term paper using just voice technology, but having science-heavy words was not conducive to the writing process. I had to add quite a few terms into the software for it to recognize properly and that proved to be more time consuming than just typing it out and hampered my chain of thought on more than one occasion. Due to time constraints as the semester draws to a close, I have abandoned speech recognition technology for the time being.

Here’s a breakdown of three things I liked and didn’t like about speech recognition technology (particularly regarding Dragon’s software):

Pros:

1) Makes navigating and entering text on a slate tablet a much more pleasant experience. One of the drawbacks of having a slate tablet is the lack of a keyboard for text/data entry. Using the power of voice recognition, I was able to quickly and accurately enter text in fields that otherwise would require TIP input. It sped up workflow at least threefold.

2) Dragon’s voice technology is quite impressive. It has an almost eery learning ability that adapts to your particular speaking style and vocabulary. Dictating emails became almost second nature once I got used to the commands. I can see how through every day use, the software can increase productivity and workflow much more than touch typing can, especially if you have time to properly train the software. I know I can speak faster than I can type, and this is where voice tech really shines.

3) The features built into the software is just mind boggling. Speaking of which, Dragon’s customer support is second to none. I always got a prompt reply to my emailed questions and any issues I had were quickly resolved. It turns out everything I wanted to do with the software is already built into the program, I just didn’t know how to access it, but Dragon’s support team did a magnificent job of pointing me in the right direction.

Cons:

1) There’s a pretty steep learning curve and adjustment to the software. It’s pretty easy to use, but there is a lot of functionality that takes practice to get used to. Being able to start, close, and switch between programs simply using your voice is great, but learning how to tell the software to do as it is told sometimes frustrated me.

2) The software is completely hardware dependent and is pretty resource-intensive. Unless you’re using a computer with decent processing power with decent RAM, your system can slow to a crawl. The F5 was sporting a Core Solo processor with 1GB RAM, which was well below the recommended hardware for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10. Often times, I would repeat a command because I didn’t think it registered and found myself with repeated phrases or multiple windows of a program opened.

3) If you have non-standard words or phrases you need to use, you have to train the software to pick up on those words. In my experience trying to write my genetics paper, I found myself spending most of my time correcting diction errors through the software. I don’t blame Dragon for the lack of specialized vocabulary because it would be almost impossible to program the software to recognize every specialty and subspecialty out there. It’s just time consuming to train the software to pick up on words and phrases that would otherwise be faster to just type out.

So would I use speech recognition software? Not right now. I just find typing to be more comfortable to my working style and my workflow. Although voice tech definitely improved my experience with the Motion F5, I would not personally use a slate tablet for my day-to-day tasks. I like the flexibility and functionality that a convertible tablet offers. Being in a classroom during a lecture also doesn’t allow for me to take notes with voice tech. In this instance, inking and a keyboard is much more useful.

Would I recommend speech recognition software? Absolutely, especially if you have time to train it to your specific needs in an environment where speaking aloud won’t intrude on anyone else’s space. There’s no doubt that speaking is much faster than typing. Having software with the ability to type what you dictate will improve workflow and efficiency. If you have any trouble with your hands or if you are prone to CTS, speech technology is an alternative that should thoroughly be explored.

5 Comments

  1. Joe T.

    11/25/2008 at 4:17 am

    Great point, Carmen. I think each of those particular scientific terms which gave Truc word recognition problems described in Con #3 will be gone now if he has the genetics paper stored in My Documents.

    I agree with learning curve complaint, #1. I still have a To-Do item back from DNS 8 to write up a cheat sheet. Dragon should do a better job on that.

    As far as Con #2 goes, a bump up from 1GB memory to 2GB (which we should all have at the prices of memory now) should do the trick. I've experienced decent performance with just a 1.06 GHz processor and 2GB memory on a lightly loaded Tablet. As I recall, DNS 9 recommended 1GB minimum, a big clue that if you're running anything other than Dragon's own notepad, you need more memory than 1GB.

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  2. Ryan

    11/25/2008 at 5:19 am

    I like the idea of speech recognition software. It could really speed up my work flow. I did try Windows Vista's built in speech recognition, and this comic basically describes my experience.

    http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/112008/speech-

    Reply

  3. Travis Carnahan

    11/25/2008 at 6:12 am

    Couldn't you use "x1" for a complicated word that you were going to use several times in your paper and the use the "replace" function to replace all of the "x1" 's with "Supercalafradulisticexpealadocious"? Just an idea!

    Reply

  4. John in Norway

    11/25/2008 at 11:18 am

    You pretty much summed up my experience with voice dictation (DNS 9). I love the idea of it but in practice found it no quicker and, at times, very frustrating.

    Reply

  5. Carmen G-O'Donnell

    11/25/2008 at 12:13 pm

    Actually my comment would be with respect to your comments about having to train a lot. One of the things DNS did when I first installed it was go through all my text files… did yours do that as well? Because I found that it then recognized words that I thought *for sure* I was going to have to train… like "eschatology" and "hermeneutics" (I'm a student in a Master's of Theology course so needless to say, there's some pretty specific vocabulary there! ;-)

    My only other point, also, would be to make sure that your vocab-specific texts are in your My Documents folder because I think that it's the only place DNS looks. Maybe I'll contact them about giving the user the option of searching other directories (like external hard drives for instance).

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