Speech recognition software

Question: I’m interested to hear people’s experiences of voice recognition software. Have any of the packages really cracked the problem and come up with something genuinely usable? Are there any packages which do genuinely hands-free ie not need the keyboard/mouse for editing or menu control? Is anyone using VR as their main/only method of entering text and/or navigating windows?

Answer 1: Dragon Systems, L&H and IBM have all “cracked the problem”. (See the_Computer Shopper_ review.) The most hands-free is Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional. (Computer Shopper says Professional 5 is not available in the UK. I am not sure whether that’s still true, anyway, it can be bought from the US — 5 unlike earlier versions contain both US and UK English files.) If you want to use Windows 2000, then avoid IBM’s ViaVoice (NT4 is not the OS of choice for any of the programs).

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional is not cheap. If you’re a programmer you can use Python plus a utility called Natlink (free) to turn other versions of NaturallySpeaking into the same kind of program. The VR industry is in ferment at the moment. It’s impossible to tell exactly what’s going to happen (the relevant posts are on VoiceGroup at egroups.com). We might know more very soon, meanwhile the only thing you can do is choose one of these three as though the industry were not in disarray. I personally would not choose VoiceXpress (but see W2K comment)

Answer 2: I use dragon dictate version 2.1. I also have access to dragon naturally speaking professional, but must say dragon dictate is my preferred (I mainly use commands rather than dictate text, therefore dragon dictate does the job better). Both allow you to be completely hands free, who is essential to me and have allowed me to carry on working with my RSI. I found dragon dictate pretty easy to learn also. I’ve also toyed with via Voice but grew extremely frustrated and gave up!

Answer 3: My experience of Dragon is similar to Maria’s and I would recommend it. You have to be well motivated to persevere with it.

Answer 4: I just wanted to second what Maria said about Via Voice. I bought Via Voice Pro Millenium edition earlier this year and have been very disappointed. I did all the training supplied plus used it to correct text I dictated, but found the results very unsatisfactory. Does anyone have similar or better experience? Someone else I know gets on with it much better and I have wondered if it is better with certain accents (she is Scottish).

Answer 5: I’ve used it and have found it quite effective. However the quality of your sound card may have an effect, it did with me and I had to upgrade.

Answer 6: I’ve used both ViaVoice 98 and ViaVoice Millennium Pro. I found the accuracy was good. I did notice that the UK English versions had inferior training material and a less good training interface, and that may account for problems reported over here. It’s also true that the IBM programs suit a different kind of voice, a soft one — mine is soft, I always got “Excellent!” on the VV audio setup test, Dragon is on the whole quite rude about me… Dragon NaturallySpeaking is my program of choice — and the actual recognition I get is very good — I just thought I’d put in a good word for IBM!

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