You think computers strain your eyes, you should see what they can do to wrists. Or vocal cords… Unless you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software from Nuance.
Amazon.com has helpfully informed me in several mails over the last couple of weeks: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 is coming! This may not be exciting news to you, but perhaps it ought to be. Among technologies available to the public, this is one of those that come closest to science fiction. Basically, you dictate to the computer or even give its orders by voice instead of keyboard and mouse.
For me, there is a more personal reason also. Back when my wrist hurt so much that I had to seriously consider whether I could continue working, Dragon NaturallySpeaking was one of the things that saved my health and my job. Possibly the most important thing, although more physical exercise also helped turn the tide.
Ironically, starting around that time I began to experience problems with my vocal cords. After many years of mostly silence, and a gradual change in lung function, I can no longer speak as much as I want. Luckily, the latest versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking are able to take dictation even when I speak quite softly, more softly than I can do at work. In a manner of speaking, speaking to my computer is now better than speaking to a human.
The reviews I have read all agree that NaturallySpeaking 11 does not quite deserve its number: It is more like 10.5, there is nothing really revolutionary. The user interface has supposedly been improved, both visually and with new voice commands that are more intuitive to use. Accuracy is supposedly improved by 15%, and the program learns faster, both from the corrections you make and from ordinary use as it gets familiar with your vocabulary. This sounds like a good idea: version 10 has an unfortunate tendency to write “naked” instead of “native”, and sometimes also “breasts” in stead of “breath”. I like to think that would go away if it became familiar with my vocabulary!
There is also another practical reason why I would want the new version. The old one only works on one of my computers, the one that broke down in November and that I repaired again in February. The new version also works on 64 bits operating systems, including Vista and Windows 7. This should cover my needs for the next few years, if any, regardless of what happens to my old Windows XP computer.
This entry was dictated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, so it isn’t all that bad. I hope to give you my personal experience with the new program sometime next month. In the meantime, you might want to save up money if you are interested and don’t live in Norway where even common people have plenty of money. And not only they, but even I. Or at least I can afford $100 to have my computer understand me better than a human…