Have you talked to your PC? Voice-recognition software for business – Software Review – Evaluation
Talking directly to your computer, instead of using a keyboard, has gone from a fantasy to a reality. Speech recognition has been available since the mid-’80s, but the products were costly and inaccurate. Many of them required specialized systems like the IBM RS6000 workstations, which added to the enormous cost of the software.
However, speech-to-text technology has improved with time, thanks to improved development, powerful CPUs and digital signal processors (DSP). For about $1,000, you can now get a DSPbased sound board, a headset, microphone and dictation software that recognizes at least 30,000 words.
Voice-recognition software is readily available to the consumer. Owners of small and mid-sized businesses may find it very profitable for their operations in the long run. Voice-recognition software provides an alternative that can complement–and in some cases replace–the keyboard and mouse.
Although the technology is very impressive, it still has some rough spots. For example, there is no doubt that users can dictate a lengthy document or a memo using this software, but in most cases, you will be forced to . . . pause . . . after. . . each . . .word. That can wear on your patience, especially if you have a great deal of work to do.
Even with the rough edges, speech-to-text software has tremendous growth opportunity. One reason is that consumers, primarily business travelers, have a great need to remotely access their computer systems while on the road. Speech-to-text software as an input/output device is currently being used that way.
AT&T has already developed software to bring this technology into mainstream use. Over 1 million calls a day–calling card and collect service–in AT&T’s long-distance network are handled with speech-recognition technology. “This development is great for a small business. Instead of having a receptionist, you can have around-the-dock service without having to pay a salary,” says Chester Anderson, technical marketing director for AT&T’s Advance Speech Products Group in Middletown, N.J.
Of the many voice-recognition products on the market now, here are a few worth mentioning. But remember that when you decide to make your purchase, analyze your needs and your budget. If you are mobility-impaired investing in voice-recognition software can pay for itself many times.
Kurzweil Voice 2.0 for Windows supports a broad range of tools. It’s best for data entry, and lets you dictate in any Windows application. Words can be corrected on-the-fly, and users I can switch seamlessly between dictation and commands. The package includes voicenavigable online help, with useful terms and illustrations. List priced at $695, it includes software and microphone headset. (Kurzweil Applied Intelligence Inc.; 800-380-1234.)
IBM VoiceType Dictation for Windows is not as good for data entry, but its accuracy proves to be far better than Kurzweil Voice for Windows. VoiceType offers extensive tools for controlling Windows and has flexibility in creating macros. The software comes with an excellent 90-day toll-free support and a 30-day money-back guarantee. List priced at $999, it supports Windows 95/3.1 and OS/2. (IBM Corp.; 800-426-2255.)
DragonDictate 2.0 for Windows contains a macro editor for adding new commands. Especially good for those who need hands-off operation, it allows the user to control the mouse button by voice. You get a similar result with the cursor control. Say “move right,” and the cursor moves to the right until you say “stop.” Available for Windows 95/3.1 and list priced at $395 for the personal edition, it includes a 10,000-word vocabulary. It’s list priced at $695 for a 30,000word vocabulary. (Dragon Systems Inc.; 800-825-5897.)
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