Alex using voice recognition in his office

Voice recognition technology: FAQs

If I had a pound for every time I answered these questions, I could buy the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Does it work? 

Yes.

Really?

Yes.

How many words per minute can you type?

For this blog, about 30 words per minute. Normally I don’t have to produce words at speed but I would estimate that I am faster now than I was when I was working as a journalist typing with two fingers. NaturallySpeaking can type as fast as you can speak but you will have to correct any recognition errors afterwards. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to type faster.

How accurate is voice recognition?

For this article, Dragon Naturally Speaking has correctly interpreted 94% of words I have said. A further 3% required me to choose from a list of 10 words by saying ‘choose 4’ or ‘choose 7’. Even the best touch typists spell things incorrectly; Dragon Naturally Speaking will only offer me words that are in the dictionary.

The computer recognises your voice.  What happens if you have a cold?

I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking with a cold. As the computer learns from you constantly, after sessions like this I don’t save my voice files as recognition does depend on your ‘normal’ voice. You can also teach the computer to screen out unwanted noises like coughs and sneezes.

What about outside noise?

I have used my software in a busy and noisy press office quite effectively. The main problem I found there was colleagues tended to ignore me because they thought I was talking to my computer! One colleague’s sneeze was interpreted by my computer as ‘Honolulu’ and there was a door which closed with a sigh that used to come up as ‘fifth’ on my screen. You can train the computer to ignore these noises if they are persistent.

How long does it take to train?

I have trained a variety of people from actor Leslie Phillips to Dan Batten of Disability Now in an hour or so to understand the basics. Dragon Naturally Speaking’s initial training, in which you read from a variety of passages including Alice in Wonderland, takes a few minutes. This enables the computer to develop a model of your voice. It is practice that refines this model. So you can start using the software for dictation after an hour, but it really becomes efficient once you have customised it. The more you use it, the better it gets.  It’s a hell of a lot quicker and easier to learn than touch typing!

Can it do spreadsheets/tables/editing/whatever?

In theory, anything you can do with a keyboard or mouse can also be done via voice. Voice recognition technology is best for word processing and I wouldn’t recommend trying complicated design work with it just yet!

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