Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Cool voice-recognition software

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Via Alert Reader, this review by David Pogue of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0:

This software, which made its debut Tuesday, is remarkable for two reasons.

Reason 1: You don’t have to train this software. That’s when you have to read aloud a canned piece of prose that it displays on the screen — a standard ritual that has begun the speech-recognition adventure for thousands of people.

I can remember, in the early days, having to read 45 minutes’ worth of these scripts for the software’s benefit. But each successive version of NaturallySpeaking has required less training time; in Version 8, five minutes was all it took.

And now they’ve topped that: NatSpeak 9 requires no training at all.

I gave it a test. After a fresh installation of the software, I opened a random page in a book and read a 1,000-word passage — without doing any training.

The software got 11 words wrong, which means it got 98.9 percent of the passage correct. Some of those errors were forgivable, like when it heard “typology” instead of “topology.”

But Nuance says that you’ll get even better accuracy if you do read one of the training scripts, so I tried that, too. I trained the software by reading its “Alice in Wonderland” excerpt. This time, when I read the same 1,000 words from my book, only six errors popped up. That’s 99.4 percent correct.

The best part is that these are the lowest accuracy rates you’ll get, because the software gets smarter the more you use it — or, rather, the more you correct its errors.

You do this entirely by voice. You say, “correct ‘typology,’ ” for example; beneath that word on the screen, a numbered menu of alternate transcriptions pops up. You see that alternate 1 is “topology,” for example, so you say “choose 1.” The software instantly corrects the word, learns from its mistake and deposits your blinking insertion point back at the point where you stopped dictating, ready for more.

Over time, therefore, the accuracy improves. When I tried the same 1,000-word excerpt after importing my time-polished voice files from Version 8, I got 99.6 percent accuracy. That’s four words wrong out of a thousand — including, of course, “topology.”

For this reason, it doesn’t much matter whether or not you skip the initial training; the accuracy of the two approaches will eventually converge toward 100 percent.

NatSpeak 9 is remarkable for a second reason, too: it’s a new version containing very little new.

Yes, they’ve eliminated the training requirement. And yes, the new NatSpeak is 20 percent more accurate than before if you do the initial training. Then again, what’s a 20 percent improvement in a program that’s already 99.4 percent accurate — 99.5? That’s maybe one less error every 1,000 words.

(Nuance has done some clever engineering to wring these additional drops of accuracy out of the program. For example, the program has always used context to determine a word’s identity, taking into account the two or three words on either side of it to distinguish, say, “bear” from “bare.” The company says that Version 9 scans an even greater swath of the surrounding words.)

The more expensive “Preferred” version allows macros,

where you teach it to type one thing when you say another. For example, you can say “forget it” and have the software spit out, “Thank you so much for your inquiry. Unfortunately, after much consideration, we regret that we must decline your application at this time.”

It also works with the Mac, but read the review: steps are involved.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2006 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Technology

One Response

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  1. I’m going to try it, my wrists are killing me. I want to use it to blog. I love the macros. I just listened to David Pogue on Ted Talks. He talked about it and then I found your blog.
    Janet (newspapergrl)



    24 July 2006 at 10:57 am

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