Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dragons Be Here

One side effect of chemo that many people aren't aware of is peripheral neuropathy. That $.50 pair of words describes the phenomena of reduced sensation to the extremities. Your feet begin to lose their sensitivity and ability to provide feedback from contact with the ground. Your toes may curl slightly, feedback from contact with the floor as you walk is reduced and you may even find that the sensation resembles wearing little Dutch boy wooden shoes.

In the case of your hands it may not be as pronounced as your feet, at least it isn't for me. The significant impact of the neuropathy on my hands is that it makes typing really clumsy. I find I spend more time backspacing and correcting than actually entering text.

Then last week I saw an ad for some software. 10 or 12 years ago when I did software reviews for Ziff Davis publishing I encountered a speech to text software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. In those days of version 1.0 and 2.0 the software bragged of a 96% accuracy rate. That sounds good until you realize that if four letters out of every hundred are wrong you've got a real mess of an editable text. It didn't seem like a practical solution to entering text into a computer.

Now we are up to version 12.0 for Dragon. The quality has gone up and the prices gone down. The home edition which really includes all of the features except for some office collaboration and networking aspects is only 50 bucks at Amazon. I decided to give it a try.

The box arrived yesterday, I installed it on my computer, and spent about an hour going through the tutorials and training of the software to recognize my voice and my vocabulary. It takes about five minutes for the voice recognition training and then the software does a survey of your hard drive to read emails and Word documents to get a feel for your typical vocabulary. Along the way it will notice your correspondence and be able to enter proper names for people that you are familiar with. I did have to go in and coach it on how to spell ThunderTales.I noticed that it is reluctant to allow me to use street language and when I tried to use common defecation as an expletive it prefers to give me ship or shift. I guess I'll just have to clean up my language.

Beside the basic speech to text which goes into a Word document or an email or even into blogger I can also command my computer with voice. I can open programs, I can search files, I can format text, and pretty much do anything I can do with keyboard and mouse strictly by speaking the commands.

I would be lying to you if I said I was fully in control at this point but after only one day I am able to dictate a ThunderTales blog post like this one. That's right this has been all speech to text. I have had to enter with my mouse and keyboard about three times or to correct a fumble mouth. The software takes a little time to follow your speech but in that time it is putting your words into a context. With that time it will learn whether when you say to you mean the number, an excess, or preposition.

So far I've got to say it was 50 bucks well spent. I'm having fun with this.


Murphy's Law said...

It looks great, and speaking on behalf of the right-thinking internet, we're happier for it. Glad to see that you're not letting it beat ya.

Anonymous said...

Well to me at least, that reads like a typical post from you Ed. The app. sounds and reads great.

Hippo said...

Betcha it can't understand fighterpilotspeak which is all done with the hands.

Robman said...

Keep hanging in there, Ed.

The Free World - what's left of it (?) - needs you. Really.

Anonymous said...

Raz,I need it and I haven't had any chemo. Jack

LauraB said...

Hippo for the win...spit take on that one, thx.

Glad you found a solution to a damned bothersome side effect of - er - surviving.

I have to think, though, that it is your continued adherence to Chgo accent rather than TX that has made the software function well. Sarge would have it completely baffled with his Appalachian appellation.

Brigid said...

I am glad you are strong enough to keep speaking out. It's good to hear your words, with whatever force of will it may take some days to get them out.