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Voice recognition software, like any software package, varies in quality depending on the coding. But does the technology work? The short answer is yes, especially if you ask those using the near-undisputed champion, Dragon NaturallySpeaking™. Dragon is compatible with Windows™ operating systems. Various sources indicate Macintosh users tend towards iListen.
This type of software translates the spoken word into text for hands-free document creation. Kits generally come with a microphone and training materials used to "familiarize" the software with a user’s voice, speech patterns and enunciation. Initial training requires about 15 minutes of reading prepared text into the microphone, but extended training is encouraged to increase accuracy.
By many accounts, a good voice recognition software package can be as accurate as 95% after the initial training period, reaching close to 99% after extended training. It can also be used to send commands to the computer, including mouse movements and even macros. For the uninitiated, a macro is a series of movements required to carry out an operation, condensed and recorded to a shortcut key combination.
While voice recognition software can be very accurate, it does take getting used to. Sentences are dictated with the punctuation spoken, including pauses. The time it takes to invest in extra training sessions to make the software more accurate pays off in the long run, as correcting language isn’t always a matter of running a quick spellcheck. “Being” for example, might sound like “bean,” though context checkers should catch most mistakes.
Some people who benefit from voice recognition include those who suffer from disabilities or conditions like carpel tunnel syndrome. Translators and medical transcribers can also find it invaluable. Business executives who dictate notes can use the software to generate memos, compile "to do" lists and create correspondence, as some packages are compatible with portable digital voice recorders.
There are various packages of voice recognition software at differing price. In some cases, the voice engine is the same among packages and therefore the accuracy, but features differ. Advanced packages for professionals are geared towards the needs of each market with targeted functionality. Some operating systems include a free version of the software.
Low-quality voice recognition software will be slow to translate, have a lower level of accuracy, and be less compatible with third-party packages. It might be fun to try, but if you want to truly use it, a better quality package — whether free or purchased — will save you time and headaches. Just be sure the package does what you require, whether that’s sending emails, preparing spreadsheets, or generating notes with portable devices.