The mobile unit ($499) comes bundled with the latest voice engine from Dragon Systems, NaturallySpeaking 4.0 (which also includes its own headset microphone). Because the microphones are different, if you want to use both to dictate and command your computer, you have to train from scratch with each. While this is somewhat annoying, using the mobile unit at the PC is not a good idea, for two reasons. One, using the mobile unit means the batteries won't last as long when you want it on the move, and two, the microphone quality isn't as good as the headset unit (meaning the accuracy rate is somewhat lower on the mobile recorder).
Microphone quality alone isn't the only reason for lower accuracy rates on the mobile unit. Background noise is also to blame. When you are at the PC, you are always in the same area, so the background noise is always the same and can be filtered out successfully. The background noise in a car, on a street, or in a meeting can differ widely, so it is harder for the program to figure out just what is speech, and what isn't.
More than dictation
As well as dictating, you can use the unit to create new folders (up to 99) and edit voice files (including inserting extra text anywhere in the file). Using the unit to do these things is awkward, as there are only nine buttons to control all the unit's features. This results in some strange doubling up. To stop recording, for example, you have to hit the record button, while to stop playback, you need to hit the play button.
Another minus is the buttons themselves: it seems to take the unit some time to realise a button has been pushed, and to respond. The recorder has 4MB of internal memory. This translates into 40 minutes of the highest quality speech or 74 minutes at the lowest quality. If you want the unit to automatically transcribe voice files into text files, you have to set the unit to record at the highest quality. This storage capacity can be expanded via the use of memory cards (available in 2MB, 4MB and 8MB versions).
The Voice It Link program provided is a simplistic way to move files and folders in the mobile unit, rename them (something that can't be done by the mobile unit) and, most importantly of all, move and transcribe voice files. The program isn't very intuitive - for example, while you're hardly likely to open this program unless you wish to use the mobile unit, too, after opening the program, you still have to open a link to the mobile unit.
At press time the company announced a new "Australian" version of NaturallySpeaking, available free to version 4 users, which includes Australian vocabulary. This is an important step in improving accuracy rates. Although to date many American PC magazines have reported accuracy rates of 98 per cent using Dragon's engine, this hasn't been the case in Australia. This was because Australians had to rely on a British English accent. While the accent is considered closer to ours than US English, they are hardly similar. To date, this has meant that accuracy rates with dictation programs have been around the 85 per cent rate.
The new Australian version should bring accuracy rates to the same 98 per cent that other countries get. Another advantage with the Australian version over its British predecessor is that Australian words (bonza, g'day), suburbs and towns (such as Gundagai and Kirribilli), and flora and fauna (koala, banksia) have all been included.
The upgrade is available to users of previous NaturallySpeaking versions, costing from $89.95.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile
Phone: (02) 9238 6500
Distributor: Marketing Results
Phone: (02) 9899 5888
Distributor: Voice Perfect Systems
Phone: 1800 063 243