Monday, August 26, 2013

Working with Speech Recognition: Dragon Naturally Speakng

I have partial paralysis to my left extremities, so typing is a challenge because I have no finger dexterity on my left hand. I used to be able to type by touch at around 50 wpm, but now I rely solely on my right hand and I am constantly looking at the keyboard as I type. Although I use all 5 fingers, my speed is still just around 25-30 wpm, and I tend to hit a lot of wrong keys while looking back-and-forth from the keyboard to screen, which means I’m heavily relying on the backspace key.

So, while I was studying medical transcription, I searched for and decided on a speech recognition program, Dragon Naturally Speaking. The first time I ever used any speech recognition program was back in the mid 90’s, and the program was a total pain to use. I found it better to one-finger hen-peck the keyboard than to try to write anything using that frustrating thing. The program constantly picked up nonsensical words, about 70% of the time. I’ve lived in the California since I was 7 years old, and after 39 years, I really doubt the problem would be any lingering accent.

Anyway, I had originally purchased the $99 Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium Version 11 from Amazon. I was impressed. I cannot say that I was completely thrilled with the product. But, compare to the speech recognition program I used prior, it was several hundred times superior. It still needed some tweaking though, but honestly I cannot say that the problem was all because of Dragon.

To start, I had to purchase a new laptop because Dragon would not load in my old laptop, purchased in 2001, it did not have enough memory.  I bought and loaded Dragon onto my new laptop, completed the initialization setup, had my headset that came in the package on, opened up MS Word and started. Fifteen minutes later, I was at the point of picking up my new laptop and fling it across the room, but patience acquired by age prevailed, and I just shut everything down and had ice cream. Dragon was picking up what I was saying very well, but the frustration was that after a sentence or two, I would see that tiny twirling circle (that I would come to hate) telling me the program was working on something. So, I waited. Twenty seconds later the words appeared. I said another few words and waited again. Every time the wait became longer and longer, until that circle of frustration just kept twirling endlessly.

Thank goodness I had the help of a vocational rehab counselor who was familiar with Dragon. After a couple of training sessions and the continued lagging from Dragon, we decided to upgrade the version of  MS Word that came with my laptop, get a noise-reducing headset and upgrade Dragon to version 12. After all the upgrades, everything worked amazingly. Dragon is continuously learning from every use. I had uploaded medical documents and Dragon would scan through them and add to its vocabulary. Dragon would also learn how I pronounce words, which came in handy on those really long and tongue twisting medical terms. Overall, Dragon is a great product but you really need someone familiar with it when you run into trouble. It really saves you a lot of frustration. I think Dragon is great!  Overall, it is a wonderful product especially for individuals with paralysis. 

However, although I would use Dragon for repetitive reports, translating documents and transcribing dictations, but I still personally prefer typing by hand when I am writing articles from scratch. It’s just easier for me, especially because, creating and typing is such a stop-and-go and deleting process for me. I think it’s mainly just a habit for me. I just have a hard time trying to think of what to write and dictate it at the same time. It’s very distracting for me. So, I still prefer and rely on one-handed typing. Look for my review on one-handed keyboards in the future.

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