Could it be magic?

24 03 2010

A short post today departing from my usual ramblings, but I couldn’t help but share my delight with the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software. As Snoop Dog might say, it’s the shiznit! When I entered the profession back in ’97, the majority of senior lawyers I worked with were never far from their hand held dictaphones, and most viewed a keyboard with suspicion (and having seen some of them prod at the keyboard with glacial speed, I understood why!).

Hunter peckers your time is up

Being relatively keyboard literate, I never bothered much with the whole dictating to a secretary approach, preferring to take control of my own documents. Speech recognition software was beginning to raise its head above the parapet, but it probably wasn’t until around the year 2000 when I first got to use Dragon. It wasn’t great, and required a lot of training to get any sort of accuracy, but I did persist with it, using it mainly for those really long attendance notes of meetings (as a junior outsourcing and technology lawyer, I’d often join 12+ hour negotiation meetings).  As I moved firms and then went in-house, I  probably had a gap of two or three years before I used Dragon again (around 2006), and found it had improved slightly in that it needed less training, but had a similar level of accuracy. I used it sporadically until around 2008 when I moved into a commercial role.

Fate then dropped the latest version (v10.1) on my doormat this week, as part of the Amazon Vine program (where Amazon send stuff to prolific customers to review) and I have be absolutely blown away by how good it is. It requires virtually no training, and the level of accuracy is incredible. I’ve used it for meeting notes and parts of a business plan so far, and it’s just brilliant. Now my experience may not be typical in that I had pretty realistic expectations and also I know how to dictate clearly, but at the same time, for anybody who does a lot of typing, it must be worth a go.

I’m not sure what exactly they’ve done to the little elves in the PC who hear the words and then type them onto the screen for me, but whatever it is, it’s worked!


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