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Dragon Dictate 4: Improved speech recognition makes for a more reliable app

Kirk McElhearn | March 25, 2014
It's been nearly a year and a half since the last update to Nuance's speech recognition software, Dragon Dictate, was released. Over the past few years, Nuance has been refining the software, taking it from a pretty good speech recognition app to something one can now rely on.

Dragon Dictate 3 added a transcription feature that lets you record yourself on a dictaphone and use the app to turn your voice into words. Dragon Dictate 4 goes one step further, allowing this feature to transcribe any single speaker, after a brief training process.

I tried this with two podcasts: one from the New Yorker: Fiction, where Jennifer Egan reads a story by Mary Gatskill, and another from Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor giving a News from Lake Wobegon monologue. Overall, the results were as expected. The first recording was studio quality, and it features someone reading a short story, slowly and carefully. Dragon Dictate did very well with this, making few recognition errors. For the Garrison Keillor monologue, however, results were poor. There were so many errors that it might take nearly as long to correct them as to transcribe the entire piece. But this was a live recording, with audience laughter at times, and an improvised text.

The point of this feature is to allow you to record speeches or lectures. So if the speaker is reading slowly, and not extemporizing, you'll certainly get better results than someone speaking off the cuff, with plenty of "ums," "ahs," and repetitions. It would be great if this feature could transcribe interviews.

As a journalist, it would be very useful to me to have software that could transcribe several voices: mine and one or more interviewees. You could use Dragon Dictate 4 for this, having the app learn the speech of, say, an interviewee. It would make a mess of your questions, but it would probably save a fair amount of transcription time. But this is a hack, and it would only be useful for long interviews. Perhaps in a future version, Dragon Dictate will be able to handle multiple voices.

Bottom line

Dragon Dictate 4 is an excellent update to an already good product. If you already use Dragon Dictate, you'll find that the improved accuracy of the new version makes it worth upgrading. If you've never tried speech recognition software, Dragon Dictate 4 is good enough to convince you that you, too, can create documents without typing.

 

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