We sometimes feel as if we’ve got as far as we can go with technological advancement and to be honest what we’ve achieved in many areas is nothing short of fantastic. And then every so often a new breakthrough is made and we’re left astounded by the new doors that have been thrown open for us. One such technological advancement is voice recognition software.
What exactly is voice recognition software?
If the name hasn’t given it away, it means your computer recognises your voice. But it’s not so it knows who is talking to it – it’s far better than that. Voice recognition software allows you to dictate to your computer. You tell it what to type and it types it while you watch it appear on the screen. It is so advanced that it can predict what you want to say, it can correct errors of mis-speech or grammatical errors for you.
Voice recognition was developed as a faster method of typing up work and was originally designed with people who suffer from various disabilities in mind. Many people who suffer with physical difficulties can find typing tedious, painful or even impossible and this gives them the chance to still do it in a manner of speaking. It is also helpful for dyslexia sufferers as it will correct any errors.
So how does it work?
Voice recognition software works by taking the sounds it hears and analysing them to provide what it thinks is the most likely outcome and then converting this into ma readable text. It has extensive knowledge of the English language and can take account of regional accents, slang terms and various language nuances that people who speak the language may well take for granted.
It is so effective that it will recognise approximately 95% of what is said as long as the user speaks clearly. It’s not infallible, but it is improving all the time.
Along with the software all the user needs to be able to take advantage of voice recognition is a decent microphone that is compatible with their computer.
Because of the differences in people’s voices, part of the set up process involves the user reading a ten minute article to give the programme something to work with. Once it understands your pronunciation and intonation then it can be used to your heart’s content.
Who has developed it?
The biggest player in this field currently is Microsoft who have already rolled out several Windows based voice recognition solutions including those which are now inbuilt to the systems of Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
There are also versions available for Mac users too.
Nuance have produced a programme called Dragon NaturallySpeaking and is among the best voice recognition software currently on the market. This is compatible with Windows and there is also Dragon Dictate, which used to be known as MacSpeech Dictate, for Mac.
Using voice recognition software
A problem a lot of people encounter when first using voice recognition software is talking naturally. Many people might stutter, mumble, um and arr their way through it or any of another host of issues that can cause problems with the text that is produced. Like reading a speech, you will get better with practice. The best way is to read out what you want it to type up as clearly and is fluidly as possible. It is best to plan what you are going to say first and speak only in full sentences rather than doing it one word at a time. Don’t worry about mistakes as these can be corrected.
Once you have finished and are reading it back there are bound to be one or two errors at the very least. The good news is that these can all be fixed by simple voice commands.
The same goes for your choice and size of font, underlined or bold titles, paragraph gaps and page breaks and anything else you might wish to do to a document – everything is doable using only your voice.
Potential problems with voice recognition
There are plenty of people who can offer training and guidance when it comes to voice recognition software, so you aren’t completely on your own when it comes to becoming familiar with it and using it, but there are some problems you may encounter.
Background noise shouldn’t be a problem as long as your microphone is of high enough quality to pick up your clear speech, but in an environment with a lot of noise such as a busy office it could prove difficult. It’s best to always use the quietest environment you possible can when using a voice recognition programme.
You could find your voice becoming strained after prolonged periods of usage, particularly as you may not be speaking in a completely natural way. It is important to take regular breaks and ensure your throat remains lubricated with drinks such as warm water with lemon juice – a trick singers use to prevent vocal chord damage.
If you have a cold or suffer from allergies this can change how your voice sounds and could lead to the programme having difficulties in picking up your speech as accurately as it ordinarily would.
Currently voice recognition can only be used to pick up speech from one user at a time. This means it cannot be used in meetings for taking minutes.
You could find that programmes using voice recognition sometimes work sluggish. They require a lot of hard drive space and so you should ensure there is sufficient before beginning to use one.
When it comes to future advancement using voice recognition software the sky’s the limit. It will undoubtedly become a very common tool within business for the dictation of letters and such and once it’s developed further and can cope with two or more different users simultaneously then barrier can really be broken down.
We may never need to type ever again!