Does any voice activated transcription actually work?
February 4, 2014 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I have to spend all day on the computer for work, and a lot of writing is involved. Lately, I've noticed twinges of numbness in my fingers, and I'm worried it's the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome. I'm trying to be careful about good posture and taking breaks, but I would really love to stop typing so much. Is there any software out there now that will take dictation from me and actually do a decent job?
posted by three_red_balloons to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone who had to move towards doing more transcription because of carpal problems, and you can read about their experiences with Dragon Naturally Speaking if you'd like.
posted by foxfirefey at 7:00 PM on February 4, 2014

Dragon's software gets better every year. It's still not the computer in Star Trek, but it's an increasingly passable substitute for the keyboard, at least as far as word processing goes.

Note that if you're coding your results may vary drastically. Special characters have always been a pain in the ass for voice recognition.
posted by valkyryn at 7:11 PM on February 4, 2014

My office uses Dragon.
posted by amro at 7:39 PM on February 4, 2014

Depends on exactly what you want to do. So you just want to dictate via voice and then correct manually? Do you want to be able to correct via voice as well? Do you also want to try to command and control your computer?

Working backwards: dragon on windows, dragon on Mac, built in speec rec on the Mac.

On windows, your only real option is some version of dragon. Dictation works amazingly. Voice correction is a bit of a pain, but ok. But command and control is really limited and will drive you crazy unless you have no other choice. Expect to be a lot slower, even with dictation until you train yourself to work with the software. It is able to adapt to you to some degree but it's just not very smart; it's quit literal. This is not the star trek computer... :)
posted by reddot at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2014

Definitely yes. Best-selling novelist Lynn Viehl uses Dragon pretty much exclusively for writing; she's written dozens of novels and a daily blog since 2004.

Check out her site. In the sidebar on the right, there are links to "Handicapped Writer Resources" and a tags page. She's not always been great about tagging, so it might actually be better to use Google and search up her posts that have the word Dragon or Dragon Naturally in them.

The biggest thing is, you absolutely need to train it for the best results. People that say "it doesn't work" are almost exclusively those who haven't given it the the time and training needed to work.
posted by stormyteal at 9:47 PM on February 4, 2014

I used Dragon a few years ago. Once you've trained it up, it does a good job dealing with dictations of everyday spoken/written language (I couldn't really use it to write lab reports for Chemistry). It wasn't perfect (I had to occasionally fix a word or two by hand), but it was a huge help.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:23 PM on February 4, 2014

I had an issue with my hands last year. I was amazed up good the built in speech recognition on my Mac was. I'd recommend it.
posted by miles1972 at 12:11 AM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The answer to this question is very dependent on several factors:
- Content you're dictating. Uncommonly used language (scientific/technical terminology, for example) is a lot less useable than everyday things.
- Language. English > anything.
- Your accent - you'll get decent results with most US accents.
- Your voice pitch - a number of products tend to work better for deeper pitched voices.

So, if you're a guy in the US speaking English for a non-niche area, it's very good.
posted by Ashlyth at 3:41 AM on February 5, 2014

I also recommend Dragon. I have not used it personally but have talked to a lot of other medical transcriptionists who use it to redictate reports to save themselves the typing. Once they get it trained, it really speeds up their productivity.

Since you will be right there, editing as you go, it will be great for you. You MUST train it before you expect it to work! Others have mentioned this but, really, don't try it once and give up.

A lot of doctors think that VR will save them a huge amount of money, and really all it does is turn MTs into editors, because doctors do not usually dictate without a lot of changes and they can't spell. I type for at least two who have dyslexia and one who can't dictate a sentence with words in the right order, and often says things he does not mean (i.e., "the patient has no heart...").. Never mind the eating while talking, conversations in the background, not speaking into the microphone, saying left when they mean right, etc. VR can't fix that for you.

For the ordinary person using it for themselves for convenience, the technology has come a long way and I hear only good things about it.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:21 AM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have two relatives who have used Dragon, one with a Canadian accent and one with a British accent. Both are happy with the results.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2014

I've been in fast moving webchats with people who are using Dragon and they haven't seemed anymore prone to typos or autocorrects than anybody else.

Since his Alzheimers progressed enough to make typing difficult, Terry Pratchett has used first Dragon and then Talking Point. He's listed in Talking Point's testimonial's section. Although he had the advantage of a massive corpus that the software could use to learn his speech patterns.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:37 AM on February 5, 2014

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