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Speak softly and carry a big mic

PC Apps | Monday, September 11th, 2006 | 11 years, 0 months ago

I’ve been testing Microsoft Windows Vista this week and so far I’m having a lot of fun! There are all kinds of awesome features that I’m really excited about, not the least of which is the voice recognition functionality. In fact, I’m dictating this log entry right now and am rather impressed with the degree of accuracy. Thus far I’ve only had to make two corrections. The speech recognition engine seems rather intelligent in that it always seems to choose the correct word in context even when one word sounds like another.

Believe it or not, Vista is an even better blogger than I am since this entry is taking longer than when I type.

In addition to dictation I’m particularly impressed with how easy it is to navigate native and third party applications without touching the mouse. To click any button on an ordinary windows application interface I can either say out loud the name of the button (you can cover the mouse over the button to see the tool tip if you’re not sure) or I can say “show numbers” to overlay numbers on top of every button on the interface. I then say the corresponding number out loud, followed by OK, to click that button. Using “show numbers” I can even click elements on a webpage, such as a link or text box, to browse the web or even use the message forum.

I admit to this point I’ve been speaking fragments rather slowly and in a monotonous tone, so just for fun and all read an excerpt from Douglas Coupland’s JPod verbatim:

“Brea told me this great story. She was assigned to show around a visiting middleware consultant from France. Nobody was sure if he was gay or not. His name is surge to quote—which is sort of funny in itself, because in high school, the fictional guy in my French textbook was searched and quo. Everyone my age in my school district has the same surge to call die in their ads, forever asking where the metro is.”

For comparison hull type the same paragraph:

“Bree told me this great story. She was assigned to show around a visiting middleware consultant from France. Nobody was sure if he was gay or not. His name is Serge Duclos—which is sort of funny in itself, because in high school, the fictional guy in my French textbook was Serge Duclos. Everyone my age in my school district has this same Serge Duclos guy in their heads, forever asking where the Métro is.”

Aside from having to be mindful enough to say punctuation marks out loud, to my great surprise dictation works phenomenally well. While this may not spell a new era in data entry (imagine the noisy workplace) it is certainly a testament to how far personal computer accessibility has come. I admit, though I’m sure I look like a raving lunatic, I’ve really enjoyed controlling my computer without touching it.

Release Candidate 1 of Microsoft Windows Vista has just been released, so it is currently only available to those who signed up previously. Check this website periodically if you would like to beta test the next version.

Audibly yours,
Brian Damage

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