The Software that I received as my Early Christmas Gift
If you are a regular reader of this site, you might have already seen or read a number of my work published. You might also surmise that I must love to write due to the huge amount of work I have written. I hate to brag, but yes, I admit I love to write and express my thoughts on many topics.
My family can attest to this. Though I try to hide my so-called uncontrollable writing compulsion in the guise of net surfing, they have an inkling of my conspicuous writing activities. Time and again, I spend copious amount of time hunched back on my keyboard, focused on work, and oblivious of the events transpiring around me.
Writing is one of my favorite passions in life, but I detest the actual typing portion. If there was technology available to make a writer’s work much easier, I would definitely be the first one to utilize and promote such a breakthrough contraption, and eventually resolve my predicament. My mind would then be free to wander, bring out more of my exquisite thoughts, and be able to create more masterpieces without worrying about the drudgery of typing.
I have never learned to type properly during my elementary or high school days. I must be one of the slower typists in the world, because I merely use my two index fingers to type one letter at a time. A respectable typist manages with the use all ten fingers comfortably, and produces a substantial amount of work fast and efficiently.
Through all the years of regular typing and then keyboarding, I have improved on my typing skills, though not as substantial as I would have wanted, but slightly less than passable. Moreover, whenever my grown up children see me striving hard at work on my computer, they witness a wise old man who types at the speed and skill level of a 6 year-old child, slow and pathetic.
Last month, my son presented me an amazing early Christmas gift, something very useful for the keyboard challenged individuals. The gift I received was a Voice or Speech Recognition System software for my personal computer. It was the "Dragons Naturally Speaking" software made by Nuance Communications.
I was jubilantly telling myself, there is a God, he is good and technically gifted, and he has finally answered my prayers. I could now fully satisfy more than ever, my obsessive compulsive writing disorder.
It was software designed to make a computer listen to human voice dictations. The computer would then put down in writing the speech that it hears. It also follows voice commands for computer operation and formatting one’s writing. In short, it mimics the actual keyboard typing through the use of the human voice.
Its use is a huge advancement for individuals with less than acceptable typing skills. I was thrilled with this gift, like a little boy excited to rip open and discover his birthday presents. I wasted no time, and had it immediately set up and utilized.
My son installed it in my personal computer with the Windows 7 operating system, and it worked delightfully. In order to use it properly, I had to train the software to recognize my voice, and be able to figure out the words as I spoke them. Due to the variety of the speech accents worldwide, it includes several options on the type of English that one would prefer the system to recognize.
Some of the options are: standard English (American), southeast Asian English, Spanish Accented English, British English and three other choices. First, I tried the standard English, and the system worked fairly well, which was about 90% recognition. I was satisfied with the results.
My son suggested that I train the system using the southeast Asian English. The use of this option was definitely a success; the recognition rating was almost 99%. I finally had on my hands a clever machine that fully understands my speech, and simultaneously solves my typing shortcomings. I was also very pleased that the software system recognized my undeniable Filipino accent.
I’m aware that I still have a Filipino accent when I speak English, even though I have been a resident of the US since 1960. I can distinguish fellow Filipinos who were born or grew up in this country, versus the ones who came over as adults based on their English accent. I immigrated to the US when I was already 23 years old, and by then, my speech pattern and accent have already been ingrained in my mind and my tongue.
No amount of training in diction or pronunciation could erase a trace of my Ilonggo accent. Ilonggo is the dialect in the province of Iloilo, Philippines where I grew up. Both the Tagalog national language and English are used as medium of instruction in the Philippine school system.
On the other hand, except for my eldest son who came here as a toddler, my three younger children were all born here in the US. They all understand and can speak a few American accented Tagalog phrases, the language they grew up hearing from their parents. They all have enviable American accents, and if ever they need to use the same Voice Recognition system, it would be best for them to choose the standard English option.
The software is not perfect. It cannot recognize some proper names, technical, medical and legal terms. It is exemplary in formatting, such as paragraphing, deleting words or sentences, and opening the Internet, office writer, and Facebook. I found it useful to first dictate my thoughts, and then do the editing by actually typing the correct words.
During the first few times I used the system; I was awed and amazed of how incredible it was in recognizing my Filipino accent. I would giggle and it would even type my giggling as “at, at, at, at, at”. However, based on my experience, the software can never recognize the word "incredible". It always types it as "and credible". I tried changing my intonation, pronunciation or diction by saying the same word repeatedly, but I was still unsuccessful. In this specific case, I had no option but to type the correct word.
Writers with disabilities can benefit from speech recognition programs. Similarly, the software will be helpful for individuals who are deaf or have hearing difficulties, or for writers having typing issues. I am having fun using this application, and I continue to take advantage of the convenience it offers. And today, writing for me has become a double pleasure; I get to express myself while someone else does the typing.
Moreover, speech or voice recognition system is also useful for people who have difficulty using their hands, ranging from mild repetitive stress injuries (RSI) to serious disabilities that prevent them from using conventional computer input devices. Writers, secretaries, lawyers, and medical transcribers suffering from RSI are ideal customers of speech recognition soft wares.
This subject reminds me of the late author Philip Carlo, a chronicler of the New York mafia criminal activities which he depicted in several of his books. In his final years while dealing with the debilitating ALS disease, a terminal illness that causes the muscles to atrophy over time, he had to use the services of a personal secretary who wrote down his thoughts for his final book entitled “The killer within”. At the latter part of their lives, ALS sufferers are helpless, and can no longer do even the most mundane everyday tasks in life. He could have benefited significantly from the use of this brilliant device.
Speech recognition is also used in deaf telephony, such as voice mail to text, relay services, and captioned telephone according to the Nuance Communications, Inc. brochures. Individuals with learning disabilities who have problems with thought-to-paper communication can also benefit from the software according to advertisements from the software developers.
Have you ever heard or used any voice recognition system soft wares? The available technology provided us with this incredible piece of equipment, and I have found it appealing to use. I would recommend its use, because it has been helpful in boosting my writing activities, and it has helped make my life easier by using my voice alone to operate the computer.
Here's a list of Voice Recognition Systems from Wikipedia:
Dragon Dictate for Mac – From Nuance Communications, released as a new version of MacSpeech Dictate in 2010.
iListen – Product from MacSpeech, developed and supported for PowerPC-based Macintosh until ca. 2009.
MacSpeech Dictate – By Nuance Communications. Dictation product for Intel-based
Macintosh. Renamed and upgraded as "Dragon Dictate for Mac" in 2010.
MacSpeech Dictate Medical – Dictation product for Intel-based Macintosh with included vocabularies for 54 medical and dental specialties. Developed by MacSpeech; acquired by Nuance Communications in 2010.
MacSpeech Dictate Legal – Dictation product for Intel-based Macintosh with a vocabulary of legal terms. Developed by MacSpeech; acquired by Nuance Communications in 2010.
MacSpeech Scribe – By Nuance Communications. Transcription product for automatically transcribing recorded dictation into text.
Speakable items – Included with Mac OS X or higher. Apple's speech synthesis and recognition technology is collectively called PlainTalk.
ViaVoice – Product from IBM, developed and supported until ca. 2007.
Voice Navigator- First voice control system for a graphical user interface by Articulate Systems in 1989
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