Vista speech recognition

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I’ve been fascinated by speech recognition for a very long time.  I used a program called Simon on a NeXT computer back in 1992. I have toyed with every version of Dragon Naturally Speaking since v2 (now owned by Nuance). I keep upgrading my copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking (through v9, I haven’t done v10 yet), even though I never actually use it for anything real beyond checking out how much better each version has gotten.

The primary reason I don’t dictate more is that Lois and I work two feet apart 99% of the time. That makes it awkward to be speaking to the computer, from a number of perspectives. Still, I remain intrigued by the concept.

Vista has built-in speech recognition. My new laptop also has Realtek HD Audio built in, including a very high quality microphone next to the webcam, at the top of the monitor. As an example, I tested it with Skype the other day, with no headset, and there was no echo on either side of the conversation, and the other person said I sounded fine.

That made me think about the extra convenience of being able to dictate without scrounging around for headset, or wearing it for extended periods. I decided to play with the speech recognition just to see.

Basically, it works pretty well. Far from perfect. In fact, I’m not sure that Dragon 10 wouldn’t be better. That said, it’s built in, and feels much lighter weight (starts up instantly, shuts down instantly, doesn’t shift application windows around to put its toolbar up, etc.).

It took me a while to get it to work with my USB headset. Basically, you don’t tell the speech recognition program which device to use. In order to use it with the USB headset, you have to set the USB headset to be the default microphone on the system, and then the speech recognition program automatically picks it up.

You might be asking why I wanted to use the USB headset? The simple reason is that my headset has a microphone mute button on the cord. That’s very cool for speech recognition. If the phone rings, or Lois wants to talk, I can just hit the mute button, and speech recognition is off, even though the program is still listening. It simply can’t hear anything. As a bonus, in theory, the recognition should be better, but for now, I don’t care too much about that.

Here’s one annoyance. It was my intention to dictate this entire post, including all of the actual production of it (clicking the save button, publish, etc.). Unfortunately, I gave up after five minutes. I tend to write my posts in Firefox, right in the admin interface of WordPress. Even with Allow Dictation Everywhere set on in speech recognition, it doesn’t think that Firefox is a normal input program (though it recognizes that I’m in a text area).

So, every phrase gets put up in a dialog box for me to confirm. It got them all correct, but I couldn’t just speak the post. I could have dictated into Word, WordPad, NotePad, WindowsLiveWriter, etc., and in the future I might just do that, but for now, I’m typing this post…

Using speech recognition in Command Mode works reasonably well. I can switch applications easily, select menu items, switch folders in email (Thunderbird, which obviously isn’t written by Microsoft), etc. Yesterday, while eating lunch with both hands, I had an IM conversation with someone by speaking my responses and saying Enter after each one. The concept was very cool, even though I had to correct a bunch of words (I wasn’t using the USB headset at the time).

Anyway, I recommend playing around with speech recognition in Vista if you work in a room alone, or have a spouse (or co-worker) who would be amused by your ranting at the computing out loud. 😉


14 responses to “Vista speech recognition”

  1. Bob Mooney Avatar
    Bob Mooney

    Voice recognition…
    That's what I'm talkin' bout…

    What will happen when voice recognition
    gets to the point where text messages can
    be dictated ?? Will texting and phone become one application??

  2. hadar Avatar

    I am applying to your comment entirely by voice. 🙂

  3. thingles Avatar

    I'm sure most people would agree with me describing myself as a aggressive and early adopter of technology. With that said, I find that I can't bring myself to talk at my computer.

    I wonder when that will change. It just feels so odd.

  4. thingles Avatar

    You are definitely applying. 🙂

  5. thingles Avatar

    This is the use case where I think voice could be workable and cool. Google Voice Search on the iPhone is already pretty impressive. I could see it being nice to be able to speak since the keyboard options are limited by size.

    Plus, it doesn't feel odd to talk into a phone. It's natural.

  6. hadar Avatar

    Obviously, I don't disagree with you. That said, there are a few obvious reasons why I want it to work, and why I will continue to play with it (now more aggressively than I used to!).

    1) There are times when I have no hands free, or just one, but I'm available to type an email or respond to an IM. Perfect application for this.

    2) I can imagine a time when I am injured, or have advanced arthritis, etc., where it could absolutely be a godsend. While I could start then, being comfortable with the process, commands, limitations, workarounds, etc., would make the transition easier.

    3) Perhaps the most practical one is faster dictation. I type pretty darn fast, and reasonably accurate too. But, I can certainly speak faster than I can type. If the computer could understand it as well as my current typing skills, that would be a huge win for long documents or emails.


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  8. thingles Avatar

    I hate to acknowledge the fact that we are all getting older, but your #2 is an important reality.

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  13. Matoca Avatar

    had shoulder surgery this morning and spent most of afternoon playing with vista sr. nuts that i couldn’t get dictation to work well in thunderbird, even with allow everywhere, as mentioned above.

    but i have no use of right arm for awhile so will be using notepad to dictate to, then copy paste to thunderbird email. it does really well with SHOW NUMBERS, was able to train it to GET MAIL, SEND, INSERT, OPEN EMAILS, REPLY, COMPOSE. so after awhile i didn’t have to say show numbers.

    got pretty good navigating around desktop. will help some in the next 8 or so weeks.

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