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Google Docs Gets Voice Typing, Editing

Google's improved speech recognition allows editing and formatting of Docs files with its new Voice typing feature.

Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge: An Up-Close Look
Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge: An Up-Close Look
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Google Docs has learned a new trick: Voice typing, the ability to recognize words and commands spoken through a desktop computer's microphone.

As of Wednesday, those who use Google Docs via Chrome on desktop computers can edit and format documents by voice. A lesser version of this capability, Voice Transcription, available since last September, lacked editing or formatting functions.

Google Docs on Android and iOS supports transcription through mobile device microphones, invoked using the microphone icon on virtual keyboards. But like Voice Transcription, mobile Docs doesn't provide support for editing and formatting commands.

(Image: Google)

(Image: Google)

Activating Voice typing is a matter of selecting "Voice typing" from the Tools menu in Google Docs. After that, a popup microphone window should appear. To tell Google to listen, click the microphone popup or press Ctrl + Shift + S (Cmd + Shift + S on a Mac) on the keyboard. You can then speak to enter text into a Docs file or to edit or format that text.

"As an added bonus, we're also making it possible to dictate in Docs on the Web in dozens of additional dialects and accents, including English with an Indian accent, Spanish with a Mexican accent, and more so you can talk in the most natural way for you," said product manager Isaiah Greene in a blog post.

Google also offers capable voice support in Search through the Google app and Chrome.

The commands available to Docs users allow voice-based manipulation of font sizes, paragraph formatting, list and table creation, cursor movement within documents, and other options.

[Read Google Apps Refines Collaboration Tools.]

Google's voice recognition technology deserves mention here. Last year, the company celebrated the impact deep learning has had on the voice transcription technology in Google Voice. By soliciting users of the service to share their voicemail audio files, Google researchers were able to use that data to reduce transcription errors by 49%. The same technology also supports Docs.

At Google I/O 2015, Sundar Pichai, prior to his elevation to CEO, said that advancements in deep learning had reduced Google's speech recognition error rate from 24% in 2013 to 8% in 2015. Improvements of this sort explain why Pichai has continued touting neural networks, deep learning, and artificial intelligence as engines of future growth for Google.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
3/1/2016 | 8:27:31 AM
Re: Voice typing
I don't see the safety improvement in reading what you just said to check for error, which is why I only even attempt this while stopped at a traffic signal and I know I won't be moving any time soon.  That is legal for now and much safer than proof reading at 70mph so until I have a self driving car that lets me dictate text messages with 95% accuracy I think I'm going to stick to thumb typing in short bursts as needed. 
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
2/29/2016 | 8:02:11 PM
Re: Who is the target?
I think voice dictation technology will evolve out of necessity we can't continue to type on tiny keyboards with any speed for eternity. I personally think it has gotten much better on my phone and tablet and use it more often. No it is not perfect but it does help and for me is faster than one finger or thumb typing.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
2/29/2016 | 9:30:11 AM
Re: Voice typing
I don't know @SaneIt - I get that voice commands are supposed to be safer for driving and all, but the fact that people are texting and drafting emails while driving doesn't make me feel a whole lot safer. I really don't even like the fact that people talk hands free when driving (myself included).
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
2/29/2016 | 8:58:55 AM
Re: Who is the target?
Voice search would be kind of neat except for turning on the device, saying your trigger phrase like "OK Google" which seems to work about 40% of the time then repeating yourself a few times to get the search phrase correct.  It is almost always faster to just type your search and certainly less frustrating when using proper names.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
2/29/2016 | 8:56:00 AM
Re: Voice typing
One of the instances where I really wanted voice typing to work was in the car to send email and texts while stopped in traffic.  I had a really frustrating attempt the first day that I tried when my phone picked up the lyrics of the song playing in the car next to be better than it picked up my voice.  I agree that voice typing seems to be intended for very quiet environments and I don't meet too many people who work in absolute silence.  
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2016 | 2:22:59 PM
Re: Voice typing
@SachinEE: What amazes me is that they work flawlessly with Australian or Jamaican accents. That is just crazy for even Google.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2016 | 2:19:33 PM
Re: Voice typing
@Yalanand: I agree. Deleting stuff you have already voce typed is a pain.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2016 | 2:18:25 PM
Re: Voice typing
@SachinEE: I always use the Mic in my headphone for this kind of scenario. I know the voice typing should be advanced enough to wade off that kind of difficulty that you mentioned, but my method works like a charm.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2016 | 2:09:28 PM
Re: Who is the target?
@Shamika: I think they want to know what your search patterns are while using voice. This helps in creating the voice typing/voice searching to be more accessible and accurate. I know it is kind of freaky to know that they are always listening, but that's where the internet is headed where eveything is being tracked, and for this privacy sacrifice we get technical advancements.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2016 | 4:44:40 AM
Re: Who is the target?
@saneIT I agree with you. I have the same question to understand who is the audience. What is the benefit they will get?
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