Kyrre (kyrre) wrote,

Mobile Dictating with Dragon Naturally Speaking

I mentioned some time ago that I considered buying the Phillips Voice Tracer to use it as an alternative input device for my Dragon Naturally Speaking Software. Joel asked that I share my experience when I did so. Here is a short overview.

I have the Voice Tracer now for about two weeks. It's a nice, sleek, little thing I liked immediately. I won't list all the features. If anyone is interested enough he or she can find them easily enough on the 'net.

The VT has voice activation. That is good because the record/pause button is also a bit small and it needs firm pressure. It isn't that much of a problem for me because my hands are also small. But my friend for example considers the recorder too small.

The backplay sounds a bit tinny (again the reason is the small size) if you don't use external headphones. Nonetheless it is a clear recording. A warning: The recording volume was considerable less when using an external microphone. I don't know if it depends on the type of the micro (I tried the headset I use for dictating directly on the PC.) So I used the internal microphone. I put considerable time into testing and finding the best holding position and options (low/high recording sensitivity).

The Voice Tracer comes with an easy to use Upload Manager software. With it you can save your sound files as PCM 8,000Hz/16bit .wav files. But Dragon Naturally Speaking wants PCM 11,025Hz/16bit .WAV files. It's easy enough to convert the file format with Window's Audiorecorder but the quality suffers.

The hardest part for me was to provide the initial sound file. Dragon needs the dictate of a given text with a length of at least fifteen minutes. I'm not very good at reading out loud, so I have found out. I needed many tries before I had a sample where I didn't swallow endings, misread prepositions and made too many of those little errors that don't count if you speak with other people but misleads this software.

Finally I had it and let Dragon create a new user with it. Dragon says it may need up to one hour for that task but it was finished in about a half.

The first test with a dictated journal entry wasn't very promising. So I let it transcribe the initial sample, looked through it and tried to estimate the accuracy. I think it got about 80% right. Less known words raised the error quote and I identified problem areas where I am to blame: slurring certain syllables for example. You can train the recognition and you should do so always during editing. You can mark a passage, let Dragon replay that piece of the dicate and edit it. This has the advantage that you hear where you made errors while dictating.

I'm now at a recognition rate of about 90% for every day journaling and I didn't work much with it yet. I don't know if the file format conversion is a problem. Admittedly I haven't had the time to try other software for the conversion. I don't even know if I want to invest time for this, training Dragon to recognise my dictate and training myself to dictate better will probably show improvement sooner.

PS: Not all versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking support Mobile Dictating. I think the XP Preferred Edition is at least needed. Check at scansoft's website first. There is also the official compatibility list.
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