Can you find a way to do dictation from a distance, using a microphone headpiece and your laptop?
January 25, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to set up some sort of dictation system in which you can talk into a microphone while out walking around and have the words transmitted back to your computer?

I use a digital recorder to write, but at present I have to either transcribe everything after I get back home (which is a pain) or, if I was willing to dish out for a new computer (which I might) I could download the audio file onto my computer and then type it up/have Dragon Dictate or a similar program deal with it.

While watching Body of Lies, I noticed that Russell Crowe's character in a couple of scenes dictating into a mouthpiece while wandering around on his front lawn and having the words appear on the screen of his laptop inside - very slick.
It's one of those things that you see and you say, "well, that seems so very useful that someone must have invented it!" Or maybe this is just an example of Hollywood tech.
I haven't had any luck determining which it is, mostly because I'm not sure what tagwords to type into a Google search ("microphone-laptop dictation"? "Recorderless dictation"? "Awesome thing that I want"?). So I thought I'd drop a question here and see if anyone who uses dictation more professionally than me might be aware of a similar technology in use.
posted by AdamCSnider to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. Dragon has a microphone app on the iphone that will transmit your words to your computer over the network.
posted by Brent Parker at 4:54 PM on January 25, 2012

Yes. If your laptop supports Bluetooth, get a Bluetooth microphone or headset and you're ready to go.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:47 PM on January 25, 2012

Best answer: I have used two methods to do exactly this (or very close to what you describe). Both systems used Nuance's FlexT9 app on my Android phone (Nuance makes Dragon and is the king of speech recognition - it's much more accurate than the built-in Google voice recognition). I started using text files in Dropbox which were synced back to my computer. Now I use Google Documents to do this - I dictate and my text syncs to the cloud, where it's accessible from any computer.

Upsides of my system:
-If the dictation messes up, I know right away because I can see it on my phone.
-In addition to dictating notes, I can use it to input text in any app on my phone. I can write emails with my voice, send texts, post to Metafilter, etc.

-Google Docs on mobile phones is awesome, but there's definitely a little weirdness regarding putting the cursor in the right place. If you're just dictating notes for yourself, this isn't a big deal, but I would proofread anything before sending it out.
-Requires two applications: (FlexT9) + (Dropbox or Google Docs). I don't care about having 2 apps, in fact for me that's a strong point (so my data is automatically saved instead of hidden away in some dictation app), but I though I should specifically mention it.

I love FlexT9. I write all my papers and many of my emails with its speech recognition because it's easier than typing.
posted by Tehhund at 5:50 PM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

What you are asking is a little bit confusing. There are a few options but none will be free, sand more or less so depending on what you need.

- As people have already mentioned, there are voice dictation programs for phones - they generally work ok but are a little bit wonky. On my iphone, for example, you can dictate about 1 minute at a time and then wait for it to process before dictating more. And the app won't store the dictation in the app- you have to copy and paste, email, or message the text to save it. Maybe the android app is better.
- You can absolutely transfer voice recordings from a recorder to a PC and use the right dragon app ($$$) to transcribe it, but you already know about that and don't want to go that route.
- Bluetooth will work short-range. You will have to set up voice commands to open and operate dragon or another dictation app on your pc, but I'm sure there is a way to do that.

I think your real question should be "is there a wireless network device (i.e. phone) that has an app that will stream audio to a PC which can be used for voice command and dictation?" And the answer is that yes there is, at least for iphone - I couldn't find something comparable for android.
posted by ianhattwick at 6:46 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: You folks are awesome.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:05 PM on January 25, 2012

ianhattwick raises a good caveat: On my iphone, for example, you can dictate about 1 minute at a time and then wait for it to process before dictating more.

FlexT9 (can you tell I love this app?) can either detect when you stop talking, or record until you hit a button. I use the former so I have to get out 1-3 sentences at a time without any long pauses, because when I pause it starts transcribing. It feels pretty natural, but there are pauses that you have to get used to. The other setting records your voice until you hit the Done button, but it maxes out at 60 seconds of recording. Either way I think this will do what you want, but if you happen to talk like a meth addict you might be disappointed when it hits its max of 60 seconds. Dictation, like typing, is a learned skill, but you probably know that already.

Regarding the pauses when it transcribes: the app must send the voice file to Nuance's servers which do the transcription and send the text back. It's pretty quick, but it needs a data connection and a few seconds. Just something to be ready for.
posted by Tehhund at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2012

Do you have a Windows 7 laptop with microphone then you are set.

The leader in this area is nuance communications and have various apps for smartphone and pc + mac. Once trained, they are very accurate.
posted by radsqd at 1:34 PM on January 26, 2012

Sidenote* Dragon dictation is developed by Nuance.
posted by radsqd at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2012

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