voice recognition tools

Subject: voice recognition tools
From: ROBERT SIDMAN <scribe -at- ezonline -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com

Nicole Muniz wrote:
I'm wondering, has anyone had any experience using voice recognition tools,
such as Dragon Systems Naturally Speaking, with Adobe FrameMaker and/or
Exceed ? I'm trying to find out (a.) whether Frame and Exceed work well with
voice recognition and (b.) whether people have had good luck getting their
companies to invest in voice recognition tools.
thanks, nicole
nicolemuniz -at- cs -dot- com

I can only comment on part on this message.

After suffering a stroke in December 1997 I totally rely on voice
recognition software for written communications. Prior to the stroke I was
a two-handed typist/writer. My left-handed penmanship was readable. After
the stroke, I no longer have use of the left arm. Learning to write
right-handed at age 59 was not nice. The result is a scrawl that makes
doctors insanely jealous and produces something even pharmacists can't read.

I have used both IBM ViaVoice and the Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Of the two,
I find Dragon a much more versatile tool with Word, Excel, Hot Dog,
Arachnophilia and Eudora Pro.

Regardless of whatever software tool you may eventually use you must have
the proper hardware configuration, otherwise it may not be worth the effort.
Having worked at home on my own computer and at my federal job, I have gone
through a series of processors. I can honestly state from experience that
if you do not have a minimum processor of a Pentium III at 600 MHz or
better, forget about it.

You also need at least a 128MB of RAM and lots of storage. Stored voice
files take 750 KB for every 10 minutes of speaking.

If you have a physical problem typing, and your company wants the benefit of
your writing expertise, it will invest in the software. The ViaVoice is not
that expansive; Dragon is. But then, you get what you (or your employer
will) pay for.

With Dragon installed at home and at work, I can write at either location.
The major problem in adapting to voice recognition software is that the
software will not allow you to dictate to it as fast as you used to type.
Fortunately for me, when I first began as a reporter for The Associated
Press in 1964, I was forced to teach myself how to write without using a
typewriter. This called for mentally juggling my hand-written notes in my
head and organizing them there, then dictating in groups of about 300 words
at a time, complete with spelling, punctuation and grammar. I left AP years
ago. I never thought I would need that skill again. Fortunately, it came
back to easily after the stroke. I never thought I would need that skill
again as I did originally, covering riots, floods, coal mine collapses,
politicians, sporting events and more. But it was like falling off a
bicycle and getting on again.

The biggest drawback to voice recognition software is that it is not totally
accurate, although it learns from and about you every time you use it. You
still have to edit what you have written. Having been reduced to one-handed
typing/editing, this is a time-consuming effort. I have gone through
several upgrades of ViaVoice, and also upgraded my processors. I believe
voice recognition software will become, in time, much more accurate as both
the software and processors improve.

My situation is not ideal. I would have much preferred not to have the
stroke. Having had it, I am so thankful that it did not kill me, as one did
my closest friend. But having come this far back, I often wonder, sometimes
aloud, how in my situation, stroke victims like me communicated before there
were computers and voice recognition software. The mental answers I come up
with are not nice.
Robert R. Sidman e-mail: scribe -at- ezonline -dot- com
Member: Society for Technical Communication / HTML Writers Guild /
Internet Developers Association
If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried!

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