Do you remember the scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where they sling-shot around the sun to get back to the past and Scotty is trying to use a computer? He does his usual thing by standing in front of the console and talking to the monitor. Of course, this doesn’t work. Getting some odd looks, he’s instructed to “use the mouse”, which he then picks up and speaks into like it’s a microphone. Hilarious! Gene Roddenbury got it right 30 years ago – voice is the future. It just took us until now to develop the technology to transform that fiction into everyday reality.
To test this theory for myself, this article is written (spoken?) using speech recognition with the software creating the written text (I did have switch out of voice mode to embed the links below – it’s doable with voice commands, but much quicker to copy / paste with physical keys.). For many tasks, typing and keyboards are already becoming a thing of the past.
A brief look at the major players in the market gives a pretty convincing trend for voice as the dominant interface for our devices. Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana and Android OS devices are mostly bundled with a Google assistant. The respective smart phones, tablets and computers have good microphones to hear and capture your voice.A s long as you have a fairly fast internet connection, the cloud based spoken to written word conversion is also good. There are also many apps and programs available for free or purchase: For Windows/PC users, Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Amazon – $32) and for Mac users, Dragon Dictate for Mac (Amazon – $27) are the goto desktop programs.The key feature for the Dragon, and similar, programs is that the are self contained and don’t rely on the internet / cloud to work. This means no awkward pauses in your talking while waiting for the program to capture, upload, process, download and display your words.
Think about when was the last time you sent a text or email from your phone. Did you use the little on-screen keyboard to type out the message, or just use the handy microphone to speak the message? What about checking the weather or traffic before leaving the house? The new “Hey, Siri” feature on the iPad Pro is especially useful since I don’t even need to press a button to get started. This is just a complement (note: speech recognition has a difficult time with homonyms, and preferred “compliment” in this instance) to the home-base systems we are already getting used to. Using Amazon’s Alexa (with either the Echo or the Dot), Google’s Home or Microsoft HomeHub you can play music, get stock quotes, manage calendars and lists, and get lots of general information. It’s still internet searching, but with natural speech instead of typing.
(As an aside, if you have a Google Home and it’s causing you problems, the folks at JoyOfAndroid have a nice guide on fixing common issues.)
My take on the voice versus keyboard is that for most of the everyday tasks like texting, emailing, getting the news and internet searches voice recognition is the clear winner. It’s even possible to compose articles, short stories and even full length books. These are accomplished fast and relatively accurately. Which brings out the advantage of a keyboard – the accuracy is very high, and for specific formatting with cutting and pasting, much simpler. So it comes down to, as with most things, picking the best tool for the job. For me, I’ll be using more voice and less typing going forward.
And if you are like me and still needing a keyboard, then you should get one that is easy on the wrists and fingers, and is fully featured for a reasonable price. Check out our picks for best desktop keyboards, mobile/iPad keyboards and even kindle keyboards.
What do you use speech recognition for? Share in the comments section below …
Also, if you are interested in the Dragon programs, we’ve found these work best when paired with a good quality microphone. Here are some suggestions:
Koss CS100 Speech Recognition Computer Headset (Amazon – $11.84)
Koss Communications USB Headset with Microphone (Amazon – $22.58)
USB Condenser Mic Fifine for Podcasting, Recording (Amazon – $29.99)
FRiEQ Noise Canceling Wireless Bluetooth Headset with Microphone (Amazon – $49.99)
And, don’t forget to get a guide book to get started and learn all the capabilities and short-cuts:
Dragon Professional Individual For Dummies (Amazon – $29.99 paperback)
The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon (Amazon – $8.99 paperback)
See here for more information on the pricing.