A Monthly Online Magazine
by and for Those Who Live with
MS, Multiple Sclerosis
Tables of Contents
by F. Alexander Brejcha (Alex)
As an experiment I am writing this entire article without touching the keyboard. I am wearing a head set with a microphone and using a program called the via Voice 9 for Windows. Instead of paying $180 for the boxed version, I paid $40 for the bare bones un-boxed version which came only with a CD and the head set with the microphone.
The program requires a computer with a good bit of memory, good speed, and takes almost 600 MB of disk space. I use a Dell Inspiron 1100 which has a 20 GB hard disk and a 2 GHz processor. The program requires you to train it by reading several short stories in order for the program to analyze your voice and speaking of patterns. And every time you write a document with it, it learns more. The initial training only took a couple of hours.
The reason I was interested in this program is that my hands are affected by my M.S. and after typing for several hours they get numb and my coordination goes from bad to horrible. I am not being entirely truthful because up to this point I have had to make 3 minor corrections. But other than at that this entire article was written entirely by voice.
I normally do not try to act as a sales person, but as a writer with the impaired coordination this will help me a great deal. I also thought that it might be useful to some of you. For information, price, and ordering information go to http://www.platinum.deals.com/viavoice3.html (this URL had to be typed manually because it confused the program). But when I say comma, period, open parenthesis, and other punctuation marks the program inserts the proper punctuation marks. Occasionally one has to make a small correction but overall if one speaks clearly the program will understand you. There is no need to pause between words because the program is known as a continuous speech recognition program. For 40 bucks I figured it was worth a try and surprisingly enough this time I was right.
And last night I started a new story for the magazine I usually write for and just as with this article, I was able to write fairly normally. In fact, sometimes it is worse to try to help the program by speaking too slowly and stopping too often because the program selects the spelling of the words by context. It is important however, not only to train and the program by reading all the short stories and articles that are part of the training but is also important to keep an eye on what shows up on the screen when you dictate. Because the program may make mistakes-sometimes funny ones.
Because I bought it cheap non boxed version, I don't have a fancy manual that will guide me by the hand, but there are help screens that can instruct you on what to do. It saved me a hundred and 40 bucks! I can dig through a few help screens for that.
As an amused note, I am writing this at work and my work is as a telephone operator. While working on this little article, the phone rang and I had to answer a number of critical questions about patients in the hospital. When I finished and went back to the computer, I noticed that was on the screen was a sort of a garbled version of what I had been speaking about on the phone. I forgot to put the microphone to sleep. At the very top of the screen there is the microphone icon and you click on that with the cursor to either wake it up or put it to sleep. I guess I had better be careful if I had any visitors down here while I am working :-) - and I made that little Smiley by simply speaking the punctuation marks I used for the smile.
This program is not perfect, but I have tried earlier versions of both this one and the other major speech recognition program called the Dragon Dictate (there I had to go back and capitalize on the D in dictate). Both programs caused so many errors that I quickly gave up on trying to use them. But this time it seems as if programmers have finally gotten better at producing a workable speech recognition program. Especially for 40 bucks :-). Dragon Dictate it is very expensive, although to be honest I haven't priced their latest versions or tried to them. One problem that remains is that of homonym errors, though that is much less of a problem now as the program uses context to determine what word you mean to use. But be sure to speak clearly and enunciate!
As a note (I forgot to keep count), but during the writing of this article I don't think I needed to make more than 20 minor corrections.
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