A few weeks ago I returned to Dragon NaturallySpeaking—reassured by several books that I could boost the accuracy of my speech recognition if I truly tried. I’d used Dragon before when my arm hurt. Dragon scrambled just too much.
Well, yes, with the new tricks in use, Dragon has been worth the trouble even though I’m no slowpoke as a typist.
From the earlier post, you already know that Dragon demands a good microphone, in my case a USB incarnation of the Blue Yeti. But something else counts, too—having the microphone as close as possible to your lips.
That way, you can keep sensitivity down enough to reduce the distractions from background noise. And even without that factor, accuracy seems to be better.
You can search Amazon for microphone boom arms at varying prices, but in my case, I needed the RODE PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Microphone Boom Arm. The current price of $99 on Amazon Prime seems outrageously high since the Yeti itself sells for $113. But that’s what my home office requires.
Long-time followers of the TeleRead may recall that I write in a recliner several feet away from my monitor. I wanted an arm that could stretch from the table holding the monitor to within an inch of my mouth when I sat in the chair. The Rode boom arm did the trick. It not only was long enough, it was also sturdy enough to hold a microphone weighing several pounds.
I didn’t even need to buy an adapter to attach the Yeti to the boom arm—one came with the arm.
What I’m using dictation for
Not every piece of writing lends itself to dictation. If I’m working on something requiring an extremely precise choice of words, I’ll stick to my keyboard. And if I want to link constantly as I go along, somehow things seem to go faster with regular typing than with dictation. You may disagree. I’ve been dictating the current blog post, both in Open Live Writer where it started out and in the Web editor of WordPress.com.
Especially, dictation shines when you’re writing off the top of your head and have a lot to say at once. I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to crank out an 11,000-word policy statement for the TeleRead-LibraryCity campaign for a national digital library endowment (shorter document here). I suspect that voice recognition probably saved me at least a day or two. A friend just broke her wrist, and I can confidently recommend Dragon.
If you’re an older writer and you suffer from a past or present repetitive stress injury, Dragon might do exactly what its boosters say—and prolong your working life.
Which version to get
Even with the older versions of Dragon, you may find a noticeable improvement over the dictation systems that may be built into your operating system. Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13.0 could be at least adequate for your purposes—the disk version sells for $90 at Amazon. And for now, at least, I’m seeing an open box version for $60.
I myself have just installed Dragon Professional Individual 15.0. It now sells for $200 as an upgrade and $300 from scratch, but was available to me for $99 through an upgrade offer. The latest version may have improved accuracy a tad, and it comes with a pleasant read back-voice, in U.K. English (not the default), that I can use for proofing.
Nuance Communications, the developer, claims that 15 offers at least a 24 percent increase in accuracy. But then again, even the older versions of the program can be pretty accurate if you’re using them under the right circumstances and are willing to invest the time in training. I myself have kept training to a minimal—the newer versions don’t seem to require it as much.
Thinking beyond my own situation, I suspect that the existence of voice recognition just might be one factor for employers to consider when weighing “open office” against quieter individual offices, where background noise can be kept to a minimum.
As for ebooks, I continue to hope that someday both iOS and Android voice recognition will improve and can be used more reliably for annotating e-books. Also, I wonder if the day will come when we can dictate at least simple emails to Alexa-based devices.
So what are your own thoughts on the pros and cons of voice recognition, especially if you’re using it already?
Detail: The photo shows the boom am in use with a Rhode microphone rather than a Yeti.
You also have the gear with which to do podcasts and audio books. Have you been tempted to explore workflows that would yield three products at a time instead of just one?
@Frank: Thanks for appreciating the existing effort, the blog, and, yes, the Yeti microphone and other tech could provide me with very high-quality audio. But I’m a better writer than speaker. So I’ll spare your ears and mercifully stick to the blog. Others with TeleRead are welcome to do podcasts.
Addendum: Or record audiobooks!
You maybe, but not for me. I’ve lived so many places, my accent is unclassifiable. Speech-recognition engines don’t know what to do with me. Except for the most obvious of requests, I leave Siri confounded.
Dragon does a really good job of adapting to the individual’s voice and accent, whereas the cloud-based speech systems don’t seem to perform any adaptation.
What really gets me about Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15 is that it’s significantly more accurate for me than 13 (Home), but it runs much faster on my five-year-old computer.
Also, I’ve had to do virtually zero tweaking of the acoustic model in order to get something like 98% or 99% accuracy, although I have noticed that since I’ve dropped old dictations into a folder and allowed the new Dragon to scan them, its accuracy has gone up a noticeable amount, especially when I have to use some sort of technical jargon.
I highly recommend it, but as the author pointed out, your choice of microphone is important. I get fantastic results with a Plantronics 628 noise canceling microphone, although I have noticed that it no longer cancels noise on the latest version of Windows 10. I’m currently looking for a fix for this problem.
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Thank you for sharing your experience. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has helped me overcome my disability and enabled me to communicate via the written word again. In fact, this comment is also being composed with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Now that I have gone through the learning curve to master this, I probably would not go back to typing again even if I did not have the disability. I hope you’re also aware of third-party add-ons to Dragon NaturallySpeaking which make it a real powerhouse. I use Knowbrainer. I have free video tutorials on Dragon NaturallySpeaking in knowbrainer on my website http://www.disabledmessenger.site. I am transforming into an evangelist for the software, even though I think Nuance does not care much about the accessibility aspect of it.
i am new in this field and overwhelmed by all options and All the gadgetry like separate mikes etc. i am a fledgling writer and need voice to script transfer …i hoped Dragon could be a my answer.