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Dragon NaturallySpeaking Improves Speech Recognition

Nuance Communications claims version 11 reduces set-up time required to 'train' the software to your spoken voice and boosts accuracy up to 15%.

With the new Version 11 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Nuance Communications is raising the bar for using speech recognition to control, and dictate text to, Windows computer applications (and to Windows itself).

As David Pogue points out in his Personal Tech column in the New York Times, Reliable Dictation, Down to a 'T', the voice recognition field is far from crowded these days. Microsoft includes speech recognition in Windows 7 and Vista (and it's available for XP), and MacOS X has its Speech Recognition, but arguably, Nuance is mostly competing with itself, meaning people who have an older version, or with companies considering whether or not to try it. (Dragon is for Windows; Nuance also MacSpeech, for MacOS users, as well as Dragon Mobile Apps on the BlackBerry, Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.)

According to Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager, Dragon, Nuance, the improvements and additions make Dragon NaturallySpeaking of greater interest and value to SMBs as well as to individuals and to enterprises.

"We've reduced the set-up time to 'train' the software to your spoken voice by reading to it for four minutes, and for use with digital voice recordings, from fifteen minutes to four," says Mahoney. Built-in help and other usability improvements should also dramatically reduce the need for internal or external technical support, important for small-to-midsize businesses, where IT support time and budget is often a scarce resource, Mahoney adds.

Also, the new version supports a wider range of digital recorders, alleviating the need to convert the file format, and, notes Mahoney, many businesses use digital recorders, such as inspectors, social workers, contractors, first responders and others. "The improvements in transcribing recorded voice will be very beneficial."

Additionally, prices for the more expensive editions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking have been significantly reduced, according to Mahoney: the enterprise-oriented Professional version, from $899 to $599, and the Legal version from $1,199 to $799 (for single-user licenses). Pricing for the Home and Premium editions start at $99.99.

New features and improvements to Version 11 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking include:

-- Smarter corrections. "The way that corrections work has been significantly improved," says Mahoney. "Dragon gets 'smarter' by tracking and learning your corrections. Looking at user data, we found a segment who doesn't want to use the corrections menu, preferring to just type over. Dragon now recognizes this as a correction and adds it to your profile."

-- Up to 15% greater accuracy compared to Dragon 10, such as in out-of-the-box recognition of words. (Dragon's accuracy improves over time, as it learns the user's voice, vocabulary and speaking manner... and as the user gets more accustomed to working with Dragon.)

-- Faster command response such as executing voice commands or voice-selecting application menu items.

-- New "macro" short cuts to turn common multi-step activities into single voice commands, such as scheduling meetings, sending email, and navigating among windows on the desktop, along with commands that let the user consolidate a series of keystrokes and mouse clicks into a single voice command, like

"Search InformationWeek for technology reviews" "Search Amazon for Bluetooth headset" "Search maps for 11 West 53rd St., New York, NY" "Search Dragon Help for working with GMail" "Send an email to Mike Smith"

-- New user interface, including Toolbar additions for finding and using Dragon features you may have lost track of; a Sidebar for help with commands; improvements to Help including tutorials, videos and illustrations

-- Quick Voice Formatting for smarter correcting and editing, to make it easier to edit or correct a word or phrase, and feed keyboard entry as well as voice to the user's profile

-- Improvements to the Correction Menu, including more alternate recognition choices, easier adding to the vocabulary, and preventing undesired words from being recognized.

- More hardware, software support. Dragon 11 is compatible with Microsoft Office 2010 applications and Full Text Control, Menu Tracking. Dragon's Natural Language Commands are supported for Word 2010, Outlook 2010, and Excel 2010, and Dragon 11 supports OpenOffice Writer with dictation, correction, selection, and playback

Additionally, Nuance has made several changes or improvements for users with smaller-sized displays and lower-powered netbooks, including. "We've resized some of the user interface elements, to make users can view the UI and the tutorials comfortably on smaller displays. We've added a smaller 'speech model' -- a smaller version of our database -- that will run better on lower-powered machines. And we're providing better support for OpenOffice Writer, which many netbook owners use instead of purchasing Microsoft Office."

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Home and Premium are available now. Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional 11 and Legal 11 will be available in the coming weeks.

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