Dragon talks the talk, naturally

ScanSoft is looking for word crunchers to do away with typing, claiming the latest version of its speech recognition software to be 99 per cent accurate and capable of interpreting words spoken at 160 words per minute

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8, released this week, also has a 19 per cent improvement for Australian users (accents), said company regional productivity manager, Bob Anderson. "Technological advancements have made this product work more successfully," he said.

Anderson said he preferred to call Dragon NaturallySpeaking a desktop dictation or transcription product rather than speech recognition, as it was a more accurate description.

NaturallySpeaking is licensed on a per voice basis. That means a person can buy it for the home, but in theory it is only licensed for that person's voice and not the whole family. But per voice also means the licence holder can install the software on multiple devices such as their PC, notebook, and handhelds.

The product is priced at $199.95 for the Standard version and $399.95 for Preferred. Both products ship with a noise-cancelling microphone.

The latest version supports Palm Tungsten devices. Support for Windows CE devices is already offered.

In a demonstration, Greg Findlay from ScanSoft partner, Voice Perfect, took about five minutes to set up a new user account. During this process the new user selects predetermined text to read aloud. As they read the text back into the microphone the software learns to recognise the user's voice and records that into its memory. Once that is done the user is ready to begin.

Before dumping all the spoken text into the Word document, the software retains it in a buffer and contextually sorts it. By assessing words in the buffer, it provides for greater accuracy and it reduces the chances of it being confused by homophones, for example, "red" and "read" or "no" and "know".

The software supports all Microsoft Office applications: Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel and Access as well as Corel's WordPerfect. It is not limited to that, users can also surf the Web by speaking URLs and links.

To install, NaturallySpeaking needs an Intel Pentium III 500 MHz processor (or equivalent AMD processor), 300MB free hard disk space and 256MB RAM. However, Findlay said users really should have 512MB installed to get maximum benefits.

Findlay said a series of modules that added custom dictionaries for vertical industries such as medicine, manufacturing and law were also available.

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Howard Dahdah

PC World
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