Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Voice Dictation Delivered!

Have you tried to get voice dictation to work for your students with special needs?  Has the promise of voice dictation never quite delivered yet?

As an Occupational Therapist, and an Assistive Technology Professional, every few months, I get a request from a parent to set up voice dictation for their student.

Dragon recording

In 12 years I have seen perhaps half a dozen students use desktop based voice dictation software successfully. Those are really low numbers.  Voice dictation software often requires a high frustration tolerance when training the software, as well as reasonably clear dictation. Many of our students with learning disabilities lack those two skill sets.

Recently though, we have discovered that Dragon dictate on an iTouch, iPad, or iPhone works great. And, there is no training involved.  This whole blog entry is being dictated with Dragon Dictation. After dictating to my iTouch, I copy and paste the text into Apple's Notes which comes pre-installed on all iDevices. Notes is free, as is Dragon dictate.
Dragon Dictate

In Notes I can e-mail the document to myself. In this case I cut and paste my writing into my preferred  blog editor. It would be just as easy to cut and paste into a word-processing software on a computer. On the computer it's easy to perform necessary editing.

The upside is that the voice dictation seems to work pretty well. Even with young students I have had good success.

The downside is that it requires layers of technology:

1. Voice dictation,
2. copying and pasting into Notes or an e-mail program,
3. emailing the text to yourself,
4. copying and pasting again into a word processor.

Mailing Notes
It is important to weigh whether the benefits of voice dictation outweigh the costs created by the layers of technology. But if your reluctant writer can manage the multiple steps of dictating, copying, mailing, copying and pasting, this may be a very elegant solution.

Happy therapy!


  1. Dragon's latest direct-mail ad claims that Version 12 is a monster leap over Version 11. Yeah, I know about planned obsolescence, but I was still surprised at how much the text seemed to dismiss older editions! I'd give you the exact quote, but it took a ride on the recycling truck this morning.

    I used Versions ~8 and ~9 (Premium, not Home). Nice voice recognition. But I quickly got frustrated with the effort to learn how to do the first layer of commands around formatting, correcting, etc., and gave up on using the product. It was more inconvenience than convenience.

    Of course it's a different story if you really need the stuff -- not if you're only looking for convenience. I hope that Version 12 (and/or all the other products out there) can be useful to people who can really make use of the help.

    Meanwhile -- for lower-demand voice recognition, I'd point anyone to the following:

    1. Android and/or Apple voice recognition for smart phones, iPads, etc. HOLY CRAP -- I am amazed at how accurate they are. The main limitation is that they don't do much beyond typing the words (they think) you've said.

    2. Windows 7 voice recognition. Pretty good stuff, even without "training" to your voice. Lots of editing commands (that I haven't learned yet). AND -- you can also do things like move your mouse around the screen and click on buttons or links. These last functions aren't as slick as I'd like them to be, but it's good to know they're there. (Wrist/finger fatigue/pain is what made me look for a solution. There are probably better ones I haven't found yet -- but the ones I tried were easy to find and FREE.)

  2. Related:

    Back in '88, I became friends with a Nigerian* man who had become deaf some time in his teens. He could read lips pretty well, but when I wanted to converse at length, I'd use his TTY phone's keyboard and display to do my "talking".

    I didn't see him again until a couple of years ago, and we had a great visit. No TTY, but I did a lot of writing and drawing on a scratch pad. To my surprise, he didn't know about Dragon or similar software. I promised to show him how it worked, but never got around to it.**

    What I dreamed of, then and still: a gizmo that converts my voice to text (in real time, more or less) and that has two displays -- one for my companion to read, and one for me to read so that I know when the voice recognition has messed up.

    Imagine: Start with a pair of goggles. Put a two-line LCD display on top for my deaf companion to read. That way, still see my face while I'm speaking. For me put a "heads up" display onto the interior, so I'll know when I've been mistranslated.

    I want this for talking to my mom, too. She's hard of hearing, and sometimes she forgets to pay attention. The thing should also have a recording function so that if she says two days later, "you didn't tell me you were going to be late for dinner!", I can play it back and say "yes I did! -- see?" And literally, she'd "see" -- right there on my voice-recognition display :D

    *Nigerian is important b/c they speak English there.

    **Gimme a break -- he lives in GARNER. That's a long, boring drive from the D-town. And I'd lost my software when I changed computers. Yeah, yeah -- OK, I'll ping him now that I have an iPad.

  3. All true Marsosudiro! I remember that 11 was goin to blow away 10, and the newest MacSpeech (purchased last year by Nuance) was going to make the last version look ridiculous. And really, they did. But it was never enough to be functional. The iDevice apps seem to actually work better than their desktop counterparts and I'm not sure why. I have little experience with the Droid products and haven't used Windows in awhile, so I'm glad to get your input. Yesterday I upgraded my Mac to Mountain Lion and noticed free voice dictation. I'll be testing it to see how it works. And yes, free is good!