Dec 19, 2010

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Product Review

So, in honor of my new dictation program, I have decided to dictate my blog post for this evening. This is my one-day review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home Edition.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have great difficulty reading anything out loud. This means that no matter how I try, if I am reading something, it never comes out in a conversational manner. Because of this, I can verify that the program doesn't understand as much when you're not speaking in full sentences, without pauses. If it has less words to evaluate at one time, it understands less.

It also has a very strange selection of slang it recognizes. And it isn't consistently good with homonyms.
Example: I can say: w00t and it spells it this way, complete with 0's instead of O's. This is fun for dictating chats, but surprising.
Example: She would like to go to the store to purchase two apples and two bananas, to.
I didn't modify that sentence after speaking it. It got most of the to's correct, save for the last one. It almost never gets too-also correct.
Example: You're the best one to tell your story.
I didn't modify that sentence and it got the yours right.
Example: which woman is the which?
That one didn't come out at all, and I didn't modify it to tell it to capitalize the first which, or tell it that the second should've been the kind for Halloween.
Example: Our attendance depends on whether or not the weather cooperates.
Right. If you say it as one sentence it understands, but if you have any pauses it will get the homonyms wrong.
Example: there my favorite aunt and uncle.
Wrong. It didn't capitalize, and it picked the wrong there.
Example: have you been to their house before?
Right. Again, it is not capitalizing the sentence for some reason.
Example: they're going to have to hurry up.
Right, but this was my fourth attempt at coming up with some kind of sentence with "they're" in it the program would understand. So, I would say, of all the homonyms I have tested tonight, this one gives it the most trouble. Also, it didn't want to capitalize this either. (Edited to add: Apparently I forgot that I already did 'they're' a few lines above. I should have been coming up with a 'their' and reading my work, but ... )

You have to teach it to cuss, it doesn't come complete with much blue language out-of-the-box. I try not to use that kind of language when I'm writing, but sometimes it is going to come up in dialogue. I can tell when I use curse words, it has an inkling of what I said, but it keeps putting in other words at first… Truck duck struck luck muck… I'm sure you catch my meaning… When I notice it has put in the wrong word, I select it, and then it pops up a little dialog box for me to choose from other words it thought I might've said. What I actually said is almost always at the top of the list, first choice. Is it crazy that I feel a little bit judged by this program? I'm kidding, but I'm not. It seems to know what word I wanted to use, but it attempts to get me not to use that language. Prudish program. Ha ha!

This brings up something I've noticed about my powers of speech: I am little more than a talking monkey. My vocal storytelling ability leaves much to be desired.

My sentence construction sounds much more intelligent when it is written out by hand than just words out of my mouth. At this point, I'm not sure whether this will make my stories seem more personal – more like you're hearing somebody actually tell you a story – or if it will just make me seem like an uneducated hick. By far, I think this is the biggest drawback I've discovered so far to dictating fiction. The problem is mine, it's not a problem with the program.

My story isn't flying off in a great whoosh of inspiration. I'm still going to use it because it's winter, my hands are frequently cold, and so long as I think about what I want to say before I say it, then it gets the words on the page easily. Lazily. And who doesn't like getting to be lazy? My muse likes blankets, but is not such a fan of gloves.

In addition to typing what I tell it to, there is an interesting bonus that I hadn't expected. Although the voice and inflection frequently leave something to be desired – it is just the standard female computer voice – this program will allow me to hear my writing out loud without me having to do the reading. Dyslexia sucks. This is a good workaround for that aspect of the disorder which I never overcame.

As a side note, it's pretty great when you are searching for information. I can tell it where to search for something, whether I want it to be in the help files or online, and it will go find what I need. There is also something called the MouseGrid, which divides the screen into nine blocks like a Rubik's cube. All of these blocks have a number. I say the number, and it re-creates that same block formation within the small block area I selected, like Russian dolls. Until the pointer is over the part of the screen I wanted, and then I say CLICK, and it clicks it.

It has scrolling functions. You can tell it to go up or down, and when you've got it going in the direction you want, you can tell it to go faster or slower, or to stop. It also will allow you to place the pointer in a certain place, then click and drag so you can highlight several lines of text at a time without ever touching the mouse.

Composing this extra-long blog post has taken about forty-five minutes. However, most of that time was my indecision over word selection, the examples I used for homonym trouble, and numerous revisions of what I wanted to say. It wasn't because I needed to revise what the program understood, but that I needed to speak more like a human, less like a monkey.

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