How to train your Dragon Dictate

A child came to me a couple of weeks ago asking how to get the computer to talk the text to her. I showed her how to go to “Universal Access” in System Preferences. “Alex” was designed to sound the most like a human, with pauses for breaths at commas and periods. [Years ago, I worked with “Arlo Klinger” at The Dalton School, and I had a field day using SimpleText to speak his name in the various voices. Bubbles was my favorite.]

So, after we set up her keyboard shortcut for Text-to-Speech, I received an email from her mom about her daughter also needing something to transcribe Speech-to-Text. The kid has a definite disconnect between being able to verbally support a thesis and putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I told my student to bring in her iPod Touch, installed the free Dragon Dictate app, and provided her with a crazy small external microphone about the same size and shape of a horse pill. [The new iPod Touches have built-in microphones.] Though she could now dictate whenever and wherever using her iPod, she had to email every transcription to herself or upload them via iTunes.

Serendipitously, my boss, Don Buckley (@donbuckley), ordered Dragon Dictate 2.0 for Mac OSX. I installed it on the kid’s laptop today, and we sat together for the minorly tedious process of training Dragon Dictate to recognize her voice patterns. She was able to open Firefox simply by speaking, “Open Firefox.” I reminded her that she had two working hands and didn’t need to get all lazy suddenly. 🙂 Then we opened up a Google Doc, and she started speaking. It was relatively accurate, though it did pick up my voice and type those words as well as her words when I asked her a couple of questions. That could be a huge problem in a roomful of kids. Probably, she’ll have to adjust the mic’s sensitivity each time she plugs in the headset. I kept prompting her with questions to see how well and how fast Dragon could type her dictations. One thing worth mentioning is that when she talked about a book she read recently, it spelled out “toilet” instead of “Twilight.” Considering the quality of that particular piece of literature, I’ll side with Dragon on this one.

Note: Under Dragon’s Help Menu is an option to further customize the dictation accuracy with additional training. It’s worth the time.

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