Over the last several years I've been dealing with various stages of disability thanks to ALS. My goal is to share solutions and review various products/tools/devices that I have found particularly helpful.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

DragonDictate voice-recognition

The computer for me is a bit of a lifeline, I spent most of my career working with it and very much enjoyed spending time entertaining myself surfing the web and playing video games. It's been a great escape for me. As my hands have been steadily getting worse for some time now I have found myself less and less able to manage the keyboard and mouse. I have lost most of the dexterity which tends to cause me to push random keys and my shoulders tire out very quickly.

This is caused me to go looking for alternative ways in which I could interface with my computer to maintain a degree of independence. fortunately I don't seem to be exhibiting much in the way of the bulbar symptoms and my the voice is still quite strong, so I started looking at voice recognition software. I first started by looking at the Windows 7 speech recognition which is built in to the operating system (even the home version I believe). The price was right (free) and it worked really quite well, but he did seem to have some consistent comprehension issues for me which I found particularly frustrating. I'll discuss more of the Windows 7 speech recognition in another blog…

I started looking at Nuance Dragon dictate software, which the home version is a reasonably priced but does have limitations to its functionality. Personally I bought the premium version which better suited my needs. There are a few things in particular but the premium version that makes it worthwhile.

  • voice macros: you can create your own custom voice commands. This is a very handy feature, however it is limited to pasting formatted text. If you want to go for the full power version, you need professional… Which is $500… Ouch.
  • upgrade support: when you upgrade to newer versions of Dragon, your profiles will go with you. The home version does not support this.
  • headset included: whoopee... It is however a Plantronics which is very good quality. But I don't use it, I have a Logitech that I bought some time ago for about $30. More comfortable and still works just fine.
  • Dragon remote microphone: this is kind of a cool little feature that allows you to use your iPhone as a dictation device. I've only used it once as I prefer the headset. Worked just fine.
The general integration of Dragon into the Windows environment is really quite good and you can access most functionality just by reading what says on tab. This is particularly true for any of the MS office products. Windows 7 did have one command which I kind of preferred called "show numbers" which would put in number over top of all of the buttons accessible on the screen. To access the command you simply said the appropriate number. Dragon doesn't quite have this, but everything is still quite accessible and I find it superior comprehension to the Windows speech recognition far more valuable.

me: "Galea" on server Executus
Perhaps one of my favorite features about the Dragon software is that you can order a software bundle which further extends Dragon's integration into other software's. personally I ordered the gaming speech pack as I still like to find an escape into the World of Warcraft. The software pack is called voxenable and exposes all of the common commands of the game to Dragon. Even some of the basic movement commands in many cases. There are many games that are covered, I've only tried warcraft and portal2 and it does work quite well, there is however a little bit of latency in execution of the command.

However in the case of World of Warcraft,   Nuance Dragon dictate and voxenable allowed me to continue to play the game and socialize with people online. It works really quite well for chat and covering your basic needs. I don't recommend it for PVP, and I've not really tried it on raids (personal choice).

 don't go buy a version in the local store, or order it directly online. Call the sales representative directly. 

 They gave me nearly a 50% discount just because I called them!
Over all I'm very satisfied with my purchase of Dragon, I use it just for just about everything on the computer now. As a matter of fact, nearly this entire blog is created using Dragon. It does however take a little bit to get used to using, I find it's nothing major but you do have to train Dragon to recognize your voice and you do have to learn to speak little bit more slowly. I tend to speak rather quickly at times, and well Dragon is usually very good about keeping up with me it does tend to make more mistakes when I do.

Dragon also learns your voice and speech pattern every time you make a correction or run the Accuracy Center, which I find to be very useful as no doubt my voice changes a little bit from day-to-day and will of course change of time. Dragon will adapt to this. I speak with a fairly typically Canadian accent and I've heard some stories about people having stronger accents than my own having some difficulties getting started with Dragon. That said, when you first create your profile there is a very large selection of "accents" you can choose from. This should help get you started…

Pro: very good voice recognition functionality as well integrated into the operating system.  voxenable   option is a huge plus in my book.
Also available for Mac!
Con:it does take a little bit to get used to, and if you've already started using the Windows 7 speech functionality it's a little tricky to break some of the old habits and commands
Cost: US$75 and up.
I paid about US$150 for the premium with the gamer speech pack and the training DVD. The best advertised value online right now is for the home version with gamer speech pack

No comments:

Post a Comment