Teeth make smiles, and smiles make sales - Unidentified Harrods person in Alan Sugar's The Apprentice
THOSE THAT HAVE TRIED voice recognition software in the past are likely to have experienced frustratingly inaccurate and unresponsive applications that just didn't understand what they were saying.
As a result, this could have led them to repeating themselves and probably screaming commands into a microphone at an application that refused to interpret what they wanted it to transcribe into text.
However, Nuance's Dragon Naturallyspeaking 12 Premium software aims to change that, allowing users to train the software to teach it their normal voice so it can recognise that and take dictation accurately while the user speaks in a voice that is natural to them.
Dragon Naturallyspeaking 12 brings some new additions over version 11, such as the ability to use Dragon to navigate web services such as Outlook.com and Gmail, with Dragon icons built into their respective interfaces.
Earlier this year, Nuance updated its Dragon Naturallyspeaking 12 software to integrate it with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. We installed it on the recently released Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11S running Windows 8 to see how well the software fared in day-to-day use.
Setup and features
Being new to the software, we found that Nuance's Dragon Naturallyspeaking 12 Premium wasn't the quickest to install. Though we were expecting the software to take a while to set up due to the complexity of its voice detection and transcription, we didn't expect such a lengthy process involved in creating a user profile.
Dragon insists that you read text displayed on the screen to set it up. The text explains how the voice dictation works while you read aloud as the software application tries to assimilate your natural way of speaking.
Named "Read Training Text", this startup tutorial is a new addition to version 12 of Naturallyspeaking. Although it takes a good 15 minutes to complete, it not only helps program the system with your voice so it can understand what you are saying from the start, but it also introduces you to how it works, including basic functions and features.
This training is a great way to introduce you to the software, especially if you haven't had a chance to try it before. Once you've completed the process, the software than builds a profile for you so it knows what to listen for in the future, and builds upon this profile as it learns new things about how you talk.
However, while setting up the software we experienced a few system crashes as it tried to build our voice profile, with a "not responding" alert popping up after around 10 minutes. After exiting the program and completing the tutorial again, we rather frustratingly received the same alert. This time, however, we opted to do nothing about it and left our system to complete the setup, and subsequently the profile was built. This took around 20 minutes in total.
Once your profile has been built, another short application tutorial loads and gives you an overview of how the software can be used in everyday settings, such as writing an email. This takes no more than a couple of minutes to compete, and you're on your way.
Before the setup closes, Dragon will ask you if it can access your stored emails and documents so it can look at the way you type and familiarise itself with your writing style. This is a pretty neat feature, and according to Nuance it helps Dragon transcribe your voice to text in a style that better reflects the way you type. However this can take up to another 30 minutes, so brace yourself if you choose this option.
Next: Performance and ease of use, voice commands, value for money.
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