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7/29/2010
06:52 PM
Daniel Dern
Daniel Dern
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Fun With Your New Dragon

Version 11 of NaturallySpeaking re-raises the perennial question, does "easier" mean "easy"?

Version 11 of NaturallySpeaking re-raises the perennial question, does "easier" mean "easy"?With the release of Version 11 of its Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software for Windows, Nuance Communications says (that is, their press release says) that Dragon now "Delivers the Accuracy, Flexibility, and Features to Make Speaking Your Mind Easier than Ever."

The big question -- not just for this program, but for all things claiming "easier" or "better" -- is whether "easier" here also means "easy."

My own experiences with version 10 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking show that what looks great and easy when somebody else does it in a video or at a trade show isn't necessarily so for the newbie, any more than a Windows user like me trying to use any MacOS. (Neither OS' user interface is 'intuitive.')

Nuance claims that the training times for Dragon to get used to a new user -- by having them speak or read text to it for several minutes -- have been dramatically reduced, from four to zero for live speaking into the microphone, and when taking input from a file made with a digital voice recorder, from fifteen minutes to four. (This takes longer than live, because of sound quality differences, according to my brief chat with Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager, Dragon, Nuance.)

Many of the improvements, changes and additions to Dragon sound good, like making the help easier to find, treating keyboard corrections like spoken corrections.

The big question, to my mind, isn't whether Dragon has gotten better at learning what I'm trying to say or do. It's whether Dragon has better in terms of what the user (me, for example) has to learn, habit-wise, to use it well.

My foray last summer, with Version 10, was, to say the least, not satisfactory. Maybe, to think about paraphrasing e.e. cummings, I was thinking about it too hard. Or trying to hard. Or not reading the documentation and help enough. Or simply didn't give it enough time, even just a few more hours of attentive use. Or maybe what I wanted to be doing just wasn't match for what Dragon's good at.

It's also not clear whether voice-driven computing and text entry is a match for what I'm doing at my desktop. I'm a speedy typist, I'm used to keyboarding and trackballing, I'm on the phone a lot, and like to have the radio on the rest of the time.

On the other hand, I've got two Olympus digital voice recorders -- and expect my iPhone 4 to arrive Any Day Now (that's another story), so I'm still interested in record-and-transcribe.

Dragon's shipping me a copy of version 11 to try; I'll let you know.

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