Conversion of audio into text is the predominant feature of a voice recognition software utility. Say a sentence and voila! The text is typed and ready on your PC’s screen. Scroll below for a look at the plus and negative points of such software.
If you are a Star Trek fan or a fan of sci-fi movies and literature, then the concept of voice or speech recognition is not new to you. Along with flying cars and teleportation, visions of the future include being able to talk to the computer, to get it to perform a task and it will talk back to you. Recent developments in audio technology have allowed the partial realization of that dream. While computers are not that intelligent (yet) to carry on a conversation with you, with voice recognition software, you can make your computer understand and carry out voice commands.
Voice Recognition Software
Voice recognition is the technology where speech or diction by a human or source can be easily translated into actual text and words. It may seem like a futuristic software or program but voice recognition allows audio to be physically translated into storable, editable text. The usefulness of such a program is enormous.
Audio files and data were limited to an audio playback or editing. If you had recorded any audio file, you would have to manually listen to the file and note down what was being said. 1 or 2 small audio files are time-consuming but manageable. What about 10 audio files? For corporates who use voice recorders and take audio notes of meetings or dictating letters and memos, imagine the task of literally wording down an audio file.
Another use for such software is in handling or operating a computer, without using the traditional input mediums of the keyboard or mouse. So on switching on your PC, say “Open Microsoft Excel”, “Open File: satwork.txt” and the Excel program would be run and that particular file would be mentioned. Similarly commands like “Turn off monitor” would turn off the monitor, without you pressing a button.
Voice recognition software (VRS) work on the principle of matching up a particular sound or audio pattern to a word or text, from a built-in database of stored words and phrases. Most VRS models have an “enrollment program”, where the user has to read a passage or paragraph aloud, to acclimatize the software with the individual’s voice pattern and characteristics. Do not confuse VRS with voice training software, which is a learning aid or tool for singing and voice talent. VRS is meant to be used as a tool for translating audio into commands or text, it cannot be used to evaluate the quality and source of the audio file.
Voice Recognition Software Pros and Cons
Everything has a good and bad side and VRSs are no exception.
Compatibility: Use a voice command to type a letter, translate a memo, store a meeting’s information, this sort of program is flexible enough to work along different types of software and systems.
Convenience: Often while typing, we tend to think or pause, then type, then think again.. this disrupts the creative process. It’s nice if you just talk and your words are converted into text, right in front of you. You can actually see your ideas being formulated in front of you. For those who tape meetings and memos, this saves listening back to the audio and manually writing it down.
Speed: Typing takes practice, typing fast takes even more practice and experience. There’s no doubt, that speaking your thoughts out loud is infinitely faster than typing them out. So a VRS takes care of that by eliminating the need for typing. Think how much more you can get done, if you just speak and the data gets typed. Navigation around a computer is much faster through speech recognition software. Saying “Open up Windows Explorer” and the program opening, is much faster than you searching for the option in the Start menu.
Hands-Free Computing: You can multitask or perform other tasks while computing, since a VRS computer will operate on your voice.
Easy Learning: Once you have mastered the commands, VRS is a simple system to use. This allows easier computing for those who are new to computers or not very tech-savvy. It is also useful for the disabled, elderly and those who cannot type properly or type with speed. VRS also helps those with learning disabilities like dyslexia, for whom typing can be a very cumbersome task.
Accuracy: It’s not as simple and easy as it sounds. There is a margin of error and different VRS programs have varying degrees of accuracy. Say a paragraph has 50 words, a high degree of accuracy would translate 46-48 words correctly. If the rate of accuracy is low, then you will have to retype or correct the stored text. The same applies to issuing commands to the computer. Saying “Open Word” and your computer mistakes it for something else and opens an entirely different program.
Sound Quality: The way you speak, the quality of your voice is also important. Humans find a slurred, mumbling or low voice tone, difficult to understand, why shouldn’t a program? A crisp and very clear tone is needed. The background audio or effects also factor. A crowded or noisy area can hamper the entering sound quality and the VRS program cannot separate noise and audio.
VRS Learning Curve: The way you speak and pronounce certain words is different and the software must learn or adjust to that quirk or trait in your speech. It is a progressive program, so it learns from making mistakes and will improve with time. As it does so, you might end up editing or correcting some amounts of text, which do not match with what you said.
Environment: Talking into a microphone in a quiet and silent location, disturbs others around you. Plus they might think you are talking to them and end up starting a conversation! If you work with very specific and unusual data, such as scientific terms and jargon, then the built-in VRS software should also be smart enough to handle such words.
Price: Typing is cheaper than using a VRS. You do not need to purchase anything to type. On the other hand, a VRS will cost you at least $50 and high-end software can touch $200 – $300.
Ultimately go in for a VRS, considering your needs and weighing the various voice recognition software pros and cons against each other. Look for a balance of different features, check for compatibility with your computer’s OS and programs and compare comparison rates before committing to a VRS program.