I speak to my computer and it types what I say.
Seems like a pretty simple concept, but something that has made an absolute profound difference in my life. To think what it would be like as a quadriplegic without my computer, and particularly without the voice recognition software I use to interact with it so effectively makes me sick to my stomach. One thing is for sure, without all this awesome technology my life certainly wouldn’t be filled with all the productivity and fulfillment I enjoy every day.
I’ve been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software for over 5 years, starting way back with version 9 in 2007 and recently upgrading to the latest version 12 last week. At the beginning there were certainly a few growing pains. The voice recognition software didn’t work perfectly out of the box. Some of this was due to the maturity of the technology/product, and some was my impatience, wanting something that would work perfectly right from the beginning. It became quickly obvious that first I had to figure out how the heck to work the software, and then once I got a handle on that it became apparent I also had to train the software on how to interpret me. No small feat when you’re learning how to deal with and cope with a traumatic life changing disability, but once I get a handle on it I found Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition to be a life changer.
You see, before my skiing injury, as an overly dorky electrical engineer I used to pride myself in how fast I could type, how I can make this device work with that, program in XYZ language, and just figure out anything when it came to a computer. Then I broke my neck, and at first couldn’t use my hands, and having to interface to the computer through the hands of somebody else (err… sorry mom/Julie) it was beyond unbearable, like freaking awful. No! Left click, not right-click! The address bar… Come on, minimize the window not close it!!! Ahhhhh!!! I think you can imagine… Pretty damn frustrating!
And that’s where Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in. I started working with the program and it was almost like I started taking control back of my life. It was immediate and so liberating. Gone were the hours of frustration, for not just me, but also for the people helping, replaced by hours of happiness as I watched my cursor dash across the screen. I know I might sound a little overly enthusiastic/salesmeny about the software, but it really made that big a difference in my life. As in I can’t imagine not having it, and even more so I can’t understand why more people don’t give it a try!
So yeah, I’ve talked about the awesomeness of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but what exactly does it do?
Dragon speech recognition software makes it easier for anyone to use a computer. You talk, and it types. Use your voice to create and edit documents or emails, launch applications, open files, control your mouse, and more. Quickly and easily capture your thoughts and ideas while Dragon helps you get more done faster. - Dragon NaturallySpeaking Website
But for me it’s really so much more than this! Yeah, I can write emails or documents, open my web browser or word processor, all that good stuff, but what Dragon is to me is the lifeline that allows me to stay connected to the world. Pretty big statement, but it is what it is!
And now, if you’re still reading you either like me that much or maybe I’ve sold you, just a little bit, on the whole idea of voice recognition technology. Maybe you’ve dabbled with it a little bit on your cell phone? Or maybe you’re just thinking what it would be like to exist in a Jetson like world. Whatever it is, let me tell you exactly what it’ll take.
Commitment! Both financially and in the way you think/work.
Sounds like a pretty big deal, but it’s really not all that scary. It’s just the software is a little on the spendy side, and if you’re going to make the plunge and really benefit/enjoy it you better be prepared to buy a nice microphone and speedy computer to really optimize the software. Believe me; I tried to enter into this world the cheap route with an underpowered laptop and one of those cheap desktop microphones that was mounted like 2 feet from my mouth and the results weren’t pretty. I would speak, and then wait, and wait, and then maybe 5-10 seconds later the words would show up on my screen.
But now it’s instantaneous! As in I speak and before I can even blink the words are on the screen! What changed? The software has a gotten much, MUCH better and I have a really fast computer.
So, what exactly do you need?
- Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium
- A good quality voice recognition headset or microphone that puts the condenser element within a few inches of your mouth. I’d probably start at Dragon’s Microphone Comparison List and only consider microphones with 5 dragons are better.
- A relatively speedy 64-bit Quad Core Computer with lots of RAM. I’d say something along the lines of a Core i5/i7, 2.66 GHz or better, and 6GB+ of RAM.
With that the only thing left is to put in the upfront time learning the software and helping it learn you, and from there you just need to start working in complete thoughts/sentences (it likes having the context to work with) and you should be in voice recognition bliss! I know I certainly am!
So there it is all the reasons why and the roadmap to make it happen. Now the big question; are you going to take the voice recognition plunge?
If you are I’ll help you anywhere along the road. Granted, I’m not a certified Dragon/voice recognition expert, but my life and happiness certainly depends on the technology so I’d say I have a pretty good handle on how to make it all work!