Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Talking, Less Typing

Lately I've been trying out a couple of these "dictation" type of applications (Lord knows I do enough typing every day!) - and I have to say, that overall, I'm not very impressed. There is the Google Voice Recognition - that works OK for simple things you're searching for - but a complete mess when you're trying to dictate, let's say an email to someone.

There's Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance - the granddaddy (since 1997) - the leader in all things speech. They both recently acquired MacSpeech Dictate (now called Dragon Dictate for Mac) and came out with Dragon Dictation for the iOS and Android. It's a pretty intuitive application - there a big red button you push and then you just start talking. You have to add in the punctuation yourself ("comma"), but it's not that big of a deal ("period").

I found it works pretty well - and VERY well considering it's on a phone! It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, though.

So, I was poking around the Nuance site and noticed that they have a new desktop version (11.5) that includes the ability (via a free application) to turn your iOS divice into a wireless microphone that will beam the commands and dictation right into the application running on your PC. It also includes plug-ins for social media sites ("post to Twitter", "post to Facebook", etc.) - so if you're a drunk-tweeter or status-updater - this will make your life MUCH easier... ahem.

I really didn't think too much of it, until I was catching up on my TechCruch RSS feed and came across a posting that claims that Apple and Nuance are in kahoots to bring voice to iOS in a big way. Now, sometimes I dabble with the voice controls currently built-in into iOS (press and hold the home key for 2-3 seconds) - and it works pretty well - and will even talk back to you to confirm what you said ("Play songs by the Eagles", "Call Home", "Next song", etc).

Still, unless it works VERY well - I think that the whole "voice-activation" thing is just a gimmick. I've played with some of these voice recognition programs before - and they're cool the first or second time - but after that, they're just annoying. They don't "get" what I'm trying to express. Saying "comma" and "period" all the time really breaks... up... the... flow... of... natural... thought... patterns. When dictating, I find I'm more concerned about telling the computer commands than letting the creative thought process flow because I don't want to spend a half hour fixing the screwed up output. I can type faster than that.

We have a voice-recognition system in our Toyota minivan - that, I swear - I'm going poke a pen through my eye if I ever have to try to pair another bluetooth phone to. I mean, yes, technically, the thing hears your voice. Then, trying to be helpful, the damn thing goes on for five minutes listing all the commands you can say to it - AFTER which, you can go ahead and speak again. Useless! Give me a "pairing" button instead!

We have audio books (no need to learn to read), voice-command phones (which will spread to everything else if it's popular) - so now if our kids grow up with a system where they never have to learn to type (or spell) and can perform Google searches with pictures - what will that do to them and to society overall?

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