Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8

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About two months ago, I ran across a blog post by Jon Udell of InfoWorld about his experience with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8. Like him, I toy with speech recognition technology every few years to see how it has progressed. After reading his post and watching his video, I decided to order a copy of the Standard edition for myself.

The software comes bundled with a headset that includes an attached microphone. I’m not sure of the headset quality, but so far, I’ve been very happy with its results. Noise from the surrounding environment always wreaks havoc with speech recognition applications, and a good microphone can make a significant difference (especially if it’s a noise canceling microphone).

The software installation was very smooth, and before long, I was reading through the included training texts. For some odd reason, I enjoy reading the training text for these applications. Perhaps it’s because I know that the more I train the software, the more accurate the recognition will be. Some of the texts are relatively short, but a couple of them took me more than 45 minutes to read through.

To further increase accuracy, NaturallySpeaking 8 can optionally scan through your documents and e-mail to learn your writing style. Although I don’t know all of the technical details, I’m guessing that it looks for unique words, proper nouns, and spellings so that it can recognize or suggest them later. Pretty cool.

After setting everything up, you can fire up your favorite application, turn on the microphone, and begin dictating. As you speak, NaturallySpeaking 8 listens to sentence chunks and uses context and grammar rules to figure out what you said. Best of all, there’s no need to talk in a stilted manner, and you don’t have to insert pauses between your words. You can actually speak naturally. Imagine that!

So you could see how I created this blog posting, I downloaded an evaluation copy of Camtasia Studio and recorded myself dictating this text into Microsoft Word. In the interest of full disclosure, I did write this post ahead of time, because I didn’t want to fumble around for the demonstration.

All in all, I’m very impressed with the accuracy of the recognized text. The problem is that I type very quickly, so I’m not sure it saves me any time. However, for getting thoughts into the system or for people who don’t type for a living, this is a great application.

Update: As you'll notice in the recorded video, there were a couple errors that I had to fix manually for this post. Also, you may need to install the TechSmith Codec to propertly view the video.

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  • I have a speech recognition wiki with tips and tools at
    http://speech.squidnet.com/
    take a look around...
  • For the very fact that one can type faster than speak, dictation software will never be anything more than a novelty to non-impaired users. Even in Star Trek and other shows where speech recognition is at what could be seen as the peak of the technology, they still have keyboard-type interfaces.

    Command and control technology will catch on. I can say Notepad faster than going two or three levels into the Start menu. This is also where speech recognition technology is shown to excel in science fiction.
  • Thanks for my Dragon NaturallySpeaking software for Christmas. I started working with it tonight and I'm loving it already. But I can see it's going to take a lot of practice for it to 1) recognize my speech and 2) for me to speak in a way that doesn't result in a series of phrases. I pause so much as I think about what to say that I end up with lots of periods where there should just be spaces...I'll get to used to it.

    I do agree that it's an odd tool since I also type MUCH faster than I speak. But I am hopeful that it will help me as I create training manuals. Training manuals should really be written in the way people speak and perhaps this will streamline my revision process by getting the "spoken tone" out of the way up front. Who knows?

    Regardless, so far, so good. I'll keep you updated on how it works as we get used to one another. :) Laura
  • Wow, that's really neat! Thanks for the video. At 20, I'm developing arthritis that's making it painful to continue typing as much as I'd like, so I really think that this software will help me a lot. I really appreciate this post in helping me to decide if the software is worth my time or not. I'm certainly leaning towards yes!
  • I started buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking years ago and it never caught on in my work until version 8. Now I find I'm keeping it booted up all the time and using it regularly.

    Chiron the Standard Edition of Dragon and I use it for e-mails, text chat, and transcription work.

    For fun I like to debate leftists and Islamists in text chat (www.paltalk.com). With my fingers I can debate two people at the same time. With Dragon I can handle five or six simultaneously.

    There is a learning curve just like learning to type so don't start into it expecting magic. Nevertheless, as of version 8, it has become a productive tool for me.
  • Anyone know if this can this be used for programming? I can I used it with Visual Studio? Or navigate web pages? What about turning off and on my PC? Thanks.
  • Curious...you can use it anywhere that accepts text...at least that's been my experience. Because of the syntax, I'm not sure how well it'd work for programming. And you won't be able to turn the machine on, but you might be able to turn it off.
  • Michael, glad you like DNS 8.

    Personally, I would upgrade as soon as you can to at least Preferred and ideally Professional. You'll fine they can do a lot more than the standard version. My newsletter lists the differences between the Preferred and professional version.

    Also, the standard microphone that comes bundled with Dragon is not that great. You ought to consider something like the Andrea ANC-700 or Parrott Vxi TalkPro Express or even better the Sennheiser ME3 which is one of the most accurate microphones there is for speech recognition.

    I live in the UK. But in the States, I believe Marty Markoe of emicrophones.com is really knowledgeable on microphones.

    I;m going to add you to my blogroll.

    Peter Maddern
    www.speechempoweredcomputing.co.uk
  • It is also really good for putting numbers in spread sheets and such. Unfortunately, I had a computer crash and I couldn't get my dragon naturally speaking to reinstall. ( The file SAPIDLL.DLL did not register itself. - was the message I kept getting. ) Checked at their support web page  and they had a patch program (spcapi) that solved that problem but now their website will not generate a serial number for the reinstall saying invalid key. (Which it isn't as I downloaded what they had registered for me.)

    Here is the interesting part. They want to charge me either $19.95 for phone call or $9.95 just to send them an email!

    So my report would be good product - TERRIBLE SUPPORT. All to common a problem in software circles.

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