Fast Company

Look Ma…No Hands! Windows Vista Speech Recognition Software

Windows Vista Speech Recognition software may not have rendered the keyboard obsolete, but it certainly has made it unnecessary for many people. The voice-control software translates speech into text with impressive speed and accuracy. Users can not only dictate, but also open programs, browse the net and do most functions that presently require keyboard or mouse actions in Windows. A compatible microphone and a sound card are needed to run the Speech Recognition in Vista.

In theory, the Vista Speech Recognition software doesn't need any training. You can install it one minute and begin dictating the next. In reality, it works much better if you spend thirty minutes reading pre-selected passages that teach Vista your verbal quirks. Once you've done that, the real fun begins.

You may think you speak coherently, but you don't. You speak in run-on sentences. You make ridiculous leaps of logic. You pad every sentence with meaningless words. Heck, you don't even get basic grammar right. It's deflating to see just how illiterate you actually are, but there is hope. If you force yourself to use Vista several hours a day, you'll improve quickly. Once that happens, Vista ceases to be a nuisance and starts to be a timesaver, particularly for e-mails and short documents. Anyone who writes a lot of memos should think about upgrading to Vista for this feature alone. This is doubly true for people who spend a lot of time transferring text from paper to computer.

So, after a few hours of playing with the Speech Recognition, I was ready to do a test.

When the program is started it generates a small UI containing a microphone.Once the computer is told to ‘Start listening’, the text feedback area will show if the computer understands what the person says. If it does not, it will ask the question ‘What was that?’ Errors in what the computer recognizes can be corrected, thereby helping it to better recognize one’s speech pattern. The computer can be corrected by saying ‘Correct’ followed by the incorrect words. It makes the program smarter.

A command that really helps is the ‘Show numbers’ command that can be used at times when, for example, one cannot recall the name of a toolbar button. This way, numbers appear over everything selectable on the screen and the person can say the number that relates to that option. Other actions supported include closing, maximizing, restoring or minimizing any active window. Programs can be opened by saying ‘Open’ followed by the program name. They can also be opened by using commands to navigate through the Start menu.

Here is an unedited test of the Vista software:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse and nothing but particular to intensely on shore, I thought I would say a lot of a little and see the watery part of the world. It’s a way I have a variety of this clean and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it scanned, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily passing before cloth and warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I need; and especially whenever the high pros get such an upper hand of me, but requires a strong moral principle to prevail me from deliberately stepping into the street, and the vitally knocking people sat off—then, the county high time to get to the CIA soon as I can. This is no substitute for just a long ball. With a philosophical lorsch Kato throws himself on his sword; a quietly taped to the ship there’s nothing surprising in this. If they knew that new it, almost all men in their degree, sometime or other, cherished very nearly the same feelings course the ocean with me.

And here is the original paragraph:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Not too bad. This was after only 30 minutes of testing the software in reading the tutorials that came with it. The key is, the software will also scan your documents to look for phrasing as well as keys to how you write to better enable it to learn and anticipate your speaking styles.

Speech recognition is available in all versions of Windows Vista. I recommend using a good quality USB based microphone and a quiet room when working. 1 GB of free RAM is also recommended.

For more information visit http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windowsvista/speech.aspx

Add New Comment

0 Comments