ScanSoft breathes new fire from updated voice recognition product

ScanSoft has released the latest version of its speech recognition software, promising a higher level of useability and features to its range of text-to-speech solutions.

ScanSoft's international marketing director Mark Erwich says the new Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6.0 (DNS) package is the result of ScanSoft's acquisition of speech technology company Lernout and Hauspie (L&H) in December last year. The new software couples L&H's Voice Xpress 5 with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 5 and is available in Preferred, Standard and the Essentials versions for consumer and business markets.

As well as allowing users to operate their PC hands-free, DNS 6.0 can also record dictation at a rate of 160 words per minute. The product also maintains a 250,000 word vocabulary, which users can customise by either adding or deleting words.

Commenting on the uptake of its text-to-speech products, Erwich says that despite being US-based, ScanSoft has experienced the most success in Europe.

While the technology was popular with consumers two or three years ago, interest today is coming from the business segment of the market, he said. Business groups that have already adopted ScanSoft's speech recognition products include the financial, legal and medical professions.

"Governments in Europe and US and HR departments are using this (speech recognition software) to avoid RSI cases. They have a big emphasis on this in these countries," he said.

The new software package differs from earlier ScanSoft speech recognition products through its "Nothing But Speech" facility, which filters out fillers and sounds such as "ums" and "ahs". Erwich says ScanSoft has also improved the quality of the technology through its Acoustic Optimizer tool, which allows the software to learn every time errors are corrected, as well as analyse data.

Some of the software's key features include its ability to customise and edit documents, launch programs, control the mouse and record repeated keystrokes. Users can also navigate and search the Web by speaking URLs and links.

DNS 6.0 will work alongside all Windows-based applications, as well as Microsoft, AOL and Eudora's Web programs and supports Corel and WordPerfect. Each package can recognise and store up to 30 different user profiles. Profiles are activated through the introductory half-hour training session, which enables the software to recognise and tag the individual user's voice.

The top of the line Preferred version gives users the ability to control their applications as well as hear their text read back to them through the software's built-in RealSpeak technology. For mobile users, Preferred DNS 6.0 can also transcribe content recorded on handheld devices through to documents on the desktop.

Dragon Naturally Speaking 6.0 is being published and distributed in Australia by Quadtel/Marketing Results and is available now. The Preferred Edition is priced at $399.95, while the Standards package is $199.95. The basic Essentials version is $99.95. All packages include a headset.

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Nadia Cameron

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