Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 is a line of speech-to-text software engineered by Nuance Corporation. At its most basic level, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 acts as a virtual scribe, listening to the user through a microphone and transcribing the spoken words into electronically editable text. On a deeper level however, Dragon NaturallySpeaking can empower the physically disabled to not only produce documents but also to use their computer effectively and easily, using only voice.
Installing, configuring, and calibrating the software is extremely simple. If a physically disabled user cannot use a mouse and keyboard however, they will need someone else’s help during the initial set up of the software. The calibration session, or training, helps the program adjust itself to the subtleties of a particular voice. The more training done, the better the recognition accuracy. However, the software also learns on-the-fly as users correct mistakes and continue to use the program.
After the initial setup and calibration process, a physically disabled user can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write business and personal documents, compose e-mails, control the mouse pointer, and perform most of the functions needed to use a computer. This empowers physically disabled individuals to be less reliant on those around them. In fact, some may need no help at all for simple tasks after time.
Besides the obvious benefits of being able to use a computer independently, Dragon NaturallySpeaking also allows the physically disabled to express their opinions and ideas in written form without another’s intervention. Plus, it allows those individuals complete autonomy for personal matters on the computer. It allows them to experience for themselves a vast world of knowledge and entertainment that could otherwise be inaccessible.
Unfortunately, as with any piece of equipment or software used for adaptive purposes, there are some limits to the software. For instance, some users may find the learning curve for dictation extremely frustrating, as they will need to learn the proper nuances of the software. Also, those with speech impediments may not be able to make use of the software, as the program is particularly picky when it comes to intonation and clarity. The fact that Dragon NaturallySpeaking often produces malapropism errors during speech transcription further complicates issues surrounding frustration.
Buying a high-quality microphone or headset may help solve many of these issues, as higher quality voice input will help the improve the software’s recognition accuracy immensely. Using high-quality equipment, coupled with additional calibration sessions, a typical physically disabled user of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 can realistically expect recognition accuracy levels anywhere from 75% to 90%.
Speech-to-text software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 is not for everybody. The program’s stability and recognition accuracy, although impressive in a purely technical context, may not be suitable for every individual. However, overall, the program works well and does what it claims to do. With enough calibration, experience, and a little bit of luck, the program can help certain individuals regain control of their computing experience.