With the launch of Apple’s Siri there has been a lot of talk about speech recognition, one system has been around for quite some time is Dragon Dictate and I had the chance to try the software.
The Dragon Dictate package for Mac comes with installation and data CDs and a USB Plantronics headset. Installing is fairly simple and just requires some initial training before you use the application. The training takes about 10 minutes, you just read out the speech that Dragon asks you to say once that’s done you’re ready to talk. There are 3 modes you can use Dragon Dictate: command mode, spelling mode and dictation mode. In command mode you can control the Mac and its applications, if you say something like “reply to message” or “Open Microsoft Word” Dragon Dictate does it for you. So you could sit back on your sofa order around the Mac and dictate your work, maybe you have it controlling a media application like Plex
Where the application is really useful is in dictation mode. In dictation mode Dragon listens to your speech and outputs it to the application has the focus, so for example I am dictating this blog post now directly into Mars edit my blogging software. This is where it gets impressive, I’m actually talking at a normal conversation speed and not talking slowly, I’m talking probably as fast as a would on the podcast and its taking everything down. It’s miles quicker than typing out the post out which is something I wasn’t expecting, I’ve used voice recognition in the past and had mixed results but this work really well. I like the way you can say complete sentence or paragraph without having to pause, you don’t have to say one word at a time you can blurt out the whole paragraph if you want. As well as being able to understand your speech is there are commands that you can use when editing the text, such as “new line”, “new paragraph” and “scratch that”. this makes it really easy for editing your text. There are also proofing tools in Dragon Dictate, Dragon will read out the text to you and then you can make corrections to the text without touching the Mac.
With Dragon Dictate for Mac get a Plantronic USB headset, as well as the headset you can also use an iPhone or iPod to remotely dictate to the Mac, you install the free iPhone app and then you can use it to dictate. You just hold the phone up as you do when speak on the phone and the text goes straight into the application in focus on the Mac. Not sure why you would use it when you have got the headset but the speech recognition works quite well almost as good as using the headset.
Overall I was really impressed with the Dragon Dictate software, text recognition works really well and the command controls are pretty good to, I’ve found it quite useful for browsing the web plus Facebook and Twitter are built in to the application. The combination of good software with a good headset and speech training make it work reliably and fast.
Dragon Dictate works with Snow Leopard and Lion and costs £159 from Amazon
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