Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Voice Recognition, Take Two

I broke down and ordered an upgrade to my iListen voice recognition software. It is called MacSpeech Dictate, and it received the award for "Best in Show" at the most recent MacWorld Expo. It uses the speech recognition engine of Dragon's "Naturally Speaking," which has long been the undisputed champion of the transcription world. Next to that heavyweight, iListen is, to many people, a joke.

That's why I am so excited about the impending arrival of the upgraded dictation program. When it is quiet and when I am speaking clearly, I already achieve a very high accuracy rate with the current program. I can only imagine how successful the new program will be!

The only problem I can see now is that it is so obvious when someone has spoken a document rather than typed it. The sentences are far lengthier, more formal. At first that doesn't make a lot of sense -- most people speak so informally! -- and yet it actually makes perfect sense:

People are taught to write in short sentences, but they tend to speak in run-on sentences. The end result? A document full of telltale thirty-word sentences, strung together with commas and dashes.

It will take some time to alter my speaking style so that I talk more like I write. But I think in the long run it will be worth it. My current occupation is "legal editor." My job entails writing thousands of words every day. If I can actually speak my articles instead of type them, I think that can be a major time saver. It would help me get the first draft on screen far more easily than I could otherwise. Then, I could polish.

Seriously, voice recognition definitely has promise in my field of work. I routinely quote from legal documents. It is a pain to manually transcribe everything. If I could get into the practice of reading aloud the best quotes from judicial opinions and attorneys' motions, it is possible that I could complete my articles far more quickly.

Right now, the hardest part about writing legal newspaper articles is simply getting started. After reading opinions and motions, is far easier for me to speak aloud the basic gist of a story than it is to write down the basic gist of the story. And I am lucky in that I have a private office -- so it will not be too crazy for me to constantly be talking aloud into a microphone. :-)

We'll see how it goes. I will keep you posted.*

1. My Amazon review of iListen
2. My original review of iListen

*Yes, this entire post was written using the first generation iListen voice recognition software. And it did a pretty damn good job!

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