January 22, 2005

Curious George: Voice Recognition Software I need your help yet again monkies, but this time on my mother's behalf.

My mother has had progressive Multiple Sclerosis since I was about six. It has gotten to the point where she has nearly no use of her legs (they just spasm once in a while on their own accord) and is starting to lose the use of her hands. She can no longer write anything by hand. She is able to use a computer (which she does daily for work), but it is getting harder for her to type out long emails or faxes. I'd like to get her some Voice Recognition software to help her out with this, but I have no idea what is a good suite. If it makes a few mistakes it is okay as she is able to correct them by hand, but the fewer the better. Price isn't a problem, at this point. So, there you are, please help me help my mother!

  • I tried voice recognition software, once. It wasn't any good; it couldn't tell the difference between me and my wife.
  • By the way, I'd help if I could, but I know nuffink. Sorry 'bout that.
  • 12 years ago by jb
  • Sorry - should have previewed. Dragon Naturally speaking
  • In highschool I used an older variant of this. It worked remarkably well. I haven't tried any others, so it might not be the best out there. It did work well for me though.
  • If you're in the UK (or even if you're not they may have some relevant info) Abilitynet may be of some use: the website a ton of factsheets about all kinds of assistive technologies for people with disabilities, including speech recognition IIRC, and they've also got a freephone helpline you can call for advice about specific issues and products.
  • I third Dragon. It's pretty good and requires very little training time. The software has really progressed in time and can understand many dialects.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking and IBM ViaVoice are the only two serious packages on the market. Dragon is generally considered the better of the two, although in objective tests they usually come out about even. There is some training involved to get the software attuned to a particular voice, but it's not that onerous, as earlier posters have mentioned, and mostly a one-time thing. There is a noticeable difference in performance between the different versions of each, however (Preferred, Std, Pro, etc). Since price is not an object I recommend going directly to the Pro version (several hundred $). Choice of microphone can also make a significant difference, and the software company will be able to suggest a preferred mic model that you should buy. You might also want to contact the MS Society, or some other disabled society before purchase. Although your mother is only currently planning on using it for long dictation, eventually she might want to use it to control the whole computer, as her needs change. Either IBM or Dragon might have better support for total computer integration. Since voice dictation is a popular solution for the disabled, if you contact the appropriate society they will definitely be able to quickly give you a recommendation between the two choices.
  • If you'd like a sense of how well the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking works, watch this this video. [Quicktime.] It's actually quite impressive, much better than it was when I tried it last. Best wishes for your Mom.