It’s mostly the voice

Three leading speech-recognition software companies want you to talk to your PC

Speech-recognition software has gotten more powerful recently, but it still won’t make your computer as easy to use as the one on board Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. From your car to your telephone to your toaster, computer programmers are trying to incorporate speech-recognition software to make it easier for users to control electronic devices. Computer software manufacturers are leading the speech-recognition revolution in an effort to enable you to dictate text directly to your PC, as well as control most of its functions with spoken commands.

In the past, speech programs had limited dictation capabilities and required users to pause…between…each…word. Current programs promote continuous speech capability, but none are 100% accurate at handling the diversity of ways in which English is spoken at the normal pace of conversation. Similar-sounding words are often misinterpreted, and homonyms are even more

difficult for machines to decipher. “Write” and “right” are equally likely to show up if you say “rite of passage,” never mind the word you’re actually looking for. And although you don’t have to pause between words in most of the new speech-recognition programs, you do (comma), however (comma), have to speak all the punctuation (period).

The ability of the software program to recognize your speech is directly related to the processing power of your computer. Directions estimate setup times of between 15 minutes and an hour, but the more time you spend training the program to recognize your particular speech patterns, the better it will perform. Mac users should look for MAC OS compatible, speech-recognition software in the coming months.

  • Dragon System’s “Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 3.5,” the hottest-selling speech-recognition application, uses its “BestMatch” technology to accurately bring your words to the screen at up to 160 words per minute. The recognition dictionary includes 230,000 words initially, but you can add more words or phrases with a vocabulary builder. “NaturallySpeaking” allows you to edit documents on the go or when you are ready to review them. Dictation playback is an attractive feature that allows you to record your dictation in case you or an assistant need to check the original. The program also enables dictation into most Windows applications, as well as America Online, Corel, Lotus Notes, Eudora and others. Dragon’s program will also read any type of document, such as e-mail, back to you on command. If you need to whip up documents when you’re away from the office, Dragon also sells a portable recording device that will transcribe spoken notes and documents when connected to your “NaturallySpeaking”-enabled desktop computer. If you’re seeking accurate dictation or are working with long documents, “NaturallySpeaking” is probably the best bet. Retail price: $199.00. For more information, log on to www.dragonsys.com or call 800-4DRAGON.
  • IBM’s “ViaVoice 98 Executive Edition” uses a start-up wizard that can get you using the program inside of 15 minutes (if you own a Pentium III processor). The standard setup gives you a choice of training scripts and uses a “quick tips” feature throughout the program to continuously teach you how to better use various
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