Recognize This Voice?

In recent years, advancements in computer memory, processing speeds, and PC microphones have helped make voice recognition software an increasingly viable option for companies that rely heavily on dictation- intensive tasks to produce weighty documents.

By deploying speech to text software, businesses can take advantage of voice recognition products on the market that can speed up document production time and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries that come from the frequency of key strokes a typist makes.

One very advanced speech recognition software product on the market is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 for Windows (, manufactured by Nuance Communications Inc. The software comes in several versions, starting at $99 for the standard version to $799 for the professional version. Essentially, this software package allows users to speak into a headset microphone or other audio input devices; the software recognizes the words and reproduces them on the user’s computer screen within seconds.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 includes features that let you store voice profiles on a central server and transcribe from digital recorders or any handheld device that supports the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system.

To install the software, users must have 500 MB of free hard disk space. It is recommended that they also have 512 MB RAM (a minimum of 256 MB RAM) and a 16-bit Creative Labs Sound Blaster or compatible sound card set to 16 bit.

Once you’ve installed the software and registered with Nuance, you can begin the process of having the software adapt its speech model to your voice during the four minutes of initial training. This is done when you are asked to read specific text into your microphone so that the software can adjust to the nuances of your accent.

To further become familiar with your writing style, the program searches your computer for text files or e-mail messages. Once your vocabulary has been installed and your settings are correct, the software gives you the option of going through additional exercises to familiarize yourself with the software’s features.

While dictating, for example, Dragon NaturallySpeaking automatically inserts periods and commas for you, but if you want other punctuation, like a question mark you’ll have to say “question mark.” If the program types the wrong word (“I scream” instead of “ice cream”) you can select the wrong word and say the word or words you want. If you’ve uttered a phrase or sentence and suddenly want to erase it you can say “scratch that” and the sentence or phrase will disappear. These are just a few of the features that make the software very user-friendly. In the meantime, if you want to make a few adjustments with the keyboard and mouse, you can.