Tag Archives: dictation

Review: Dragon Dictate 4.0 for Mac – The best speech recognition app gets even better

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Using our voice to control computers has never really taken off. For many of us, using voice recognition technology wasn’t even a consideration until features like dictation and Siri arrived on our iPhones and iPads. There’s good reason too: the voice recognition features built into our devices have always had the reputation of being half-baked. They simply aren’t accurate and consistent enough to replace our tried and trusted mouse and keyboard or touchscreen. While half decent dictation features come with every Mac (and are powered by Nuance’s technology), the voice recognition features you get with latest version of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for Mac go well beyond simply dictating speech to text. 

When people think Nuance and Dragon Dictate they typically think speech to text dictation features. After reading a bit of text and walking through a brief tutorial (about 10 minutes total), the app is remarkably accurate at understanding your voice and dictating speech consistently. If you haven’t tried full-blown dictation software like Dragon in recent years like myself, you’ll truly be amazed at how precise the program is at dictating error-free text as you speak naturally. There’s no need to speak slowly and carefully to make sure every word is recognized, and there’s no waiting around for the software to catch up to what you’re saying.

Dragon-Dictate-4-02So will I be writing my articles for 9to5Mac by simply speaking and having Dragon dictate from now on? Nope. Dragon Dictate won’t let you plow through a 5000 word piece nearly as quick as you’d type it, mainly because learning the commands necessary for formatting and corrections is like learning a new language. Basic commands seem easy enough to remember while dictating— Caps on, close quote, comma, ‘apostrophe ess’, insert, correct, new line— but in practice having to speak commands to properly format a sentence as you dictate takes away from the freedom of being able to capture your thoughts as you speak freely. I personally found the software much more useful for composing short snippets of text that typically don’t require much formatting or a deep train of thought that might be interrupted by formatting commands, like emails, Tweets, reminders, lists, and brainstorming sessions.

Of course, that process becomes much easier as you memorize and become more comfortable with the commands. While for me it won’t be replacing my keyboard on a daily basis for writing, that doesn’t mean with a little practice dictation in Dragon Dictate 4.0 can’t be a powerful alternative if necessary. Dragon Dictate has long been a popular product among those with medical conditions like arthritis that limit the ability to type comfortably or at all.

Admittedly your mileage with accuracy might vary depending on your accent (I was using the U.S. setting since there is no Canadian accent preference), but there are also region settings for the UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and India, as well as accent preferences for American, American- Inland Northern, American- Southern, American- Teens, Australian, British, Indian, Latino, and Southeast Asian.

For me, the real standout feature of Dragon Dictate 4.0 is the ability to control applications on your Mac using only your voice. Dragon Dictate comes with a number of built-in commands that allow you to control functions across apps like Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari, as well as commands for composing email or sharing status updates to Facebook and Twitter. It also has a powerful built-in command editor that lets you setup your own voice commands for just about anything you can think of. Launch, quit, or hide applications, search the web, open a file or folder, or create a new reminder using only your voice. I set up commands for opening new tabs and navigating to specific tabs in Chrome, switching between or launching my commonly used full-screen apps by simply saying the app’s name, initiating playback in Logic Pro, as well as opening files and folders in Finder. The command editor is easy enough for anyone to setup commands for opening apps, bookmarks, files and folders, menu items, and any keystroke either system wide or within an app, but also has the ability to use AppleScript, Automator workflow, Shell script, and text macro for more complex voice commands. Once you get used to speaking to your Mac and asking it to do things, you’ll wonder why you always haven’t been searching the web, navigating Gmail, and launching and switching between apps and folders with your voice.

What’s new in 4.0: 

Dragon-Dictate-4.0For those that have used previous versions of the software, the upgrade to Dragon Dictate 4.0 has a lot to offer on top of an overall bump in speed and accuracy. It includes the ability to transcribe from various audio formats like mp3, air, or wav files, a feature that previously required a separate $149 purchase of Nuance’s MacSpeech Scribe software. Once you select an audio file to be transcribed, Dragon Dictate immediately starts transcribing around 60 seconds of the file as best it can without any training— the accuracy of the initial text will depend a lot on the quality of the recording. After correcting or approving the 60 seconds worth of text it transcribes (I usually found a correction or two to be made every other line), the software takes a few minutes to create a profile for the audio and train itself to accurately transcribe the rest of the file. It’s not perfect, the final transcription typically had a number of errors to correct unless the audio source was the cleanest, professional voice recording imaginable with no background noise. The transcription also comes out as one big blob of text with no concern for punctuation or grammar. Don’t expect a finished product quality transcription, but since it can transcribe the text in only a fraction of the actual length of the audio and pretty accurately, it will certainly trim a lot of time off transcriptions of long audio files.

The new version also packs in a long list of commands specifically for controlling Gmail in Safari and Firefox with your voice, as well as some nice enhancements for dictating into Pages.

The biggest issue I ran into with Dragon Dictate 4.0 was background noise getting picked up. There are commands to mute the mic, put it to sleep, or have it auto sleep, but that doesn’t do much to combat background noise when you have the mic on while dictating commands. On a few occasions background noise from either my devices, pets or the street would launch apps unexpectedly or begin dictating text when I wasn’t speaking. This was mostly an issue when using my Macbook’s built in mic and of course wouldn’t be a concern in a perfectly quiet room. It’s also partly your Mac’s fault; using a standalone vocal mic positioned properly, a headset, or the Dragon Remote app that turns your iPhone into a mic for your Mac will minimize these issues.

Is it worth the cost? 

Dictation might not be faster than typing, but that’s not the point. The ability to transcribe voice memos and other audio files you’ve recorded on the go and control anything on your Mac with your voice would make Dragon Dictate an excellent value even without everything else it offers. And for those that for some reason can’t type or just don’t want to, the dictation features are worth every penny if Apple’s built-in features simply aren’t enough.

Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 usually sells for $199.99 but is currently on sale for $179. An upgrade from previous versions of Dictate is available for $149.


Filed under: Apps, Reviews Tagged: dictation, Dragon, Dragon Dictate, dragon dictate 4, Nuance, Speech recognition, speech recognition software

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Apple testing Android-like local voice dictation for iOS

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iOS 7 Dictation Interface

Apple is testing a local, offline version of Dictation voice input for iOS devices, according to strings of code found inside of the iOS 7 beta. The code, which was discovered by Hamza Sood, is located inside of both iOS 7 betas, but it is not present in iOS 6. Currently, when an iOS user uses their voice to input text using Dictation, the iOS device will use software that uploads your speech to the cloud to be converted into text. Because this relies on an internet connection and a cloud backend, this could sometimes mean errors and long-loading times, as well as some unwanted data usage…

Based on what Apple is testing, future versions of iOS could allow an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to process and convert speech from a user right on the device itself. This would speed up the process considerably, allowing emails, text messages, notes, and web searches take place via voice quicker than ever. The functionality is currently not active in public-facing builds, but we are told that devices internal to Apple have the function up and running.

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We are also told that while local dictation is an option in these seeds, the former, cloud-based dictation process is present for certain situations. Perhaps this will be an option in Settings or an option based on internet conditions.

Google’s Android operating system includes offline dictation functionality, and in Apple’s pursuit of positioning iOS as superior to Android, perhaps this feature parity could sway more customers toward iOS. Apple’s own upcoming OS X Mavericks also includes the functionality by way of an extra several-hundred-megabyte downloadable package. It’s likely that any future version of iOS supporting offline dictation may require a similar download. As shown in our video above, the offline dictation feature in Mavericks provides live feedback.

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While we do not have evidence of this, it seems plausible that Apple could eventually port over this technology from Dictation to Siri. This would allow certain queries to Siri to take place at a quicker pace. Both of Apple’s most recent “S” iPhone hardware refreshes have included new elements of voice technologies. For instance, the iPhone 3GS included Voice Control while the iPhone 4S introduced Siri. Perhaps the iPhone 5S, the likely successor the iPhone 5, will make use of local dictation as an exclusive feature. Local voice processing is a power-intensive process, so this could go hand-in-hand with the next iPhone’s improved processor and battery.

Over the past few weeks, we have found several unannounced iOS 7 features in testing, including new gesture options and LinkedIn integration. Like those other features, it is unclear if local dictation will survive the iOS 7 testing phase.


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Apple Job Listing Hints At Future Siri Integration For Mac

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Apple has been improving Siri since the intelligent assistant first made its debut on the iPhone 4S back in October 2011, and has also been working to expand its availability; it’s now available on all the latest iOS devices, and some older ones, too. It seems inevitable that Siri will one day be introduced to the Mac as well, and that day could be getting closer as Apple searches for new engineers who will be tasked with bringing it to the desktop.

The new Apple job listing, which specifically calls for a “Siri UI Engineer,” mentions that the ideal candidate will posses “familiarity with Unix, especially with Mac OS X,” and boast knowledge of Cocoa, the core of Apple’s OS X operating system. They also need experience in one of the following: Android, Microsoft C#, Java, or C++.

Apple also says that the engineer should have a “passion for the Macintosh platform and writing simple, elegant software that is easy and fun to use.” They will focus specifically on Siri’s conversations view, according to the job post.

This is the strongest indication of future Siri integration for the Mac that we’ve seen to date. It doesn’t confirm anything, of course, but it shows that Apple is certainly working on porting its popular voice-controlled assistant to its desktops. And again, it’s a move that always seemed pretty inevitable, so it’s hardly a big surprise.

We know how powerful Siri can be on iOS devices, so can you imagine how great it would be on a Mac? Apple has already introduced its Dictation feature to Mountain Lion, but it would be great if we could send emails and iMessages, create Reminders, control media playback, and more using just our voice.

Apple’s next Mac update is expected to arrive this summer, but it’s likely the Cupertino company will announce it before then. Here’s to hoping that Siri will be one of its new features.

Source: Apple

Via: Macworld



How To Enable And Use Dictation In Mountain Lion [OS X Tips]

There are many third-party apps out there that let you dictate on your Mac. Dragon Dicate is one, but it costs $199, and includes a ton of extra stuff, like controlling your Mac with your voice. If you just want to talk instead of type, say in an email, Tweet, or Facebook status update, you already have what you need built right in to your Mac running OS X Mountain Lion.

First things first: you need to enable Dication. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click on the Dictation & Speech icon to open that preference page. Click on Dictation at the top, if it’s not already selected by default. Set Dictation to On, then click on the Shortcut key to change which key presses will enable the dictation system. I chose Press Right Command Key Twice, as my Fn key is used to have F-Key functionality on my Macbook. If you use a microphone with your Mac, click on the drop down menu under the Internal Microphone area to set the input device to your mic. You can also just start dictation in an application in the Edit menu. Choose Start Dictation, and then do just that.

Apple notes that you can speak continuously for up to 30 seconds at once; that’s a lot of typing you’ve just avoided. The little purple meter inside the picture of the microphone is actually an indication of how loud your voice is. If it’s too low, move closer to your mic, speak louder, or use an external or bluetooth microphone to increase the signal to noise level.

Are you using OS X Mountain Lion? Got a tip you want to share with us? (sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address) or leave a comment below.

Source: Apple
Via: Macworld Hints




Use Punctuation To Dictate Text Messages Or Tweets Effectively [iOS Tips]

It’s not a jet car, but this seems a lot like the future.

As a new owner of an iPhone 5 that can take dictation, I’m still playing around with Siri and the various places and times that it makes sense to use my voice instead of the keyboard. Obviously, a crowded, quiet room is not the best place to speak to my iPhone, but in the car certainly is. It’s even better that I’m not texting with my fingers in the car, either, since that’s just plain dangerous. For a quick message, now, I’m gonna use the iOS 6 dictation feature.

Apple’s got an entire Knowledge Base article on how to best use dictation on your iOS 6 iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S, and as I read through it, it struck me how much easier it will be to respond to text messages should they come in while I’m not in a place to easily type a reply. One thing that surprised me was the recommendation to speak punctuation aloud.

The obvious way to dictate in any app is to tap into a text field, like a text Message or Twitter field, which will bring up the keyboard. On an iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S, the little microphone icon will show up down in the left corner of the keyboard. Tap that and then begin to speak out loud, clearly and in a normal voice.

Apple recommends using punctuation, which makes a lot of sense — everyone’s intonation is different, and speech to text systems on the Mac OS take up a lot of processing power just to do that. Give Siri a break and just say the punctuation. Apple gives the following example (bold emphasis added by me):

Enter punctuation: Say the punctuation marks you wish to have inserted as they are needed. For example, to dictate “Pick up the new iPad and suddenly, it’s clear,” say “Pick up the new iPad and suddenly comma it’s clear period.”

Source: Apple Support




Nuance Announces Faster, More Accurate Dragon Dictate For Mac 3 With New Features

Dictate now supports Mountain Lion’s new Notes and Reminders apps.

Nuance has today announced Dragon Dictate for Mac 3, the latest version of its popular dictation software. In addition to being faster and more accurate than the previous Dragon Dictate 2.5, this release also boasts “more features than ever before,” including new Smart Format Rules, wideband Bluetooth support, new correction capabilities, and more.

Dragon Dictate 3 promises 15% improvement over “out-of-the-box accuracy” than its predecessor, making it faster and easier to dictate text, create content, and command your favorite features — using only your voice.

What’s more, the software’s new Smart Format Rules let you customize your Dictate experience so that abbreviations, numbers and more are appear in the format you specify every time you dictate them. And when you get a word you’re not happy with, you can now use your speech to correct it, either by choosing an alternative word from a “richer list” or choices, or by spelling out the word you require and training Dictate as you go.

Dictate 3 also gives you more control over applications — including those built into OS X Mountain Lion:

Dragon Dictate delivers an Express Editor so that you can dictate into a text field for which it does not have Full Text Control. After you finish dictating, you can transfer the text from the Express Editor to the desired application quickly and easily by voice. In addition to general support for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 offers built-in commands for the new Notes and Reminders applications in this latest OS release.

Another handy feature is Dictate’s ability to transcribe recorded audio files. When you’re away from your Mac, you can record your notes and ideas using your iPhone or iPod touch. Then you can give Dictate the audio file when you get back to your Mac, and it’ll transcribe it for you.

Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 is available to pre-order today through Nuance’s website, starting at $149.99 for upgrades from Macspeech Dictate and previous Dragon Dictate release. For new customers, the software is priced at $199.99.

Source: Nuance




Parallels 8 For Mac Is Retina-Ready For New MacBook Pro, Up To 30% Faster Than Version 7

Parallels 8 is available to download today.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before VMware’s Fusion 5 had a competitor. Today Parallels has announced the release of Parallels 8 for Mac, the latest edition of its flagship virtualization software, which includes support for Windows 8, and boasts Retina-ready visuals for the new MacBook Pro. Other improvements include support for Mountain Lion Dictation, Bluetooth sharing, and Launchpad integration.

Just some of the new and improved features in Parallels 8 include:

  • Speak, don’t type – Use the new Mountain Lion Dictation tool across both Windows and Mac environments
  • Open in Internet Explorer  – When a website doesn’t render well within Safari, launch it in Internet Explorer with a click of a button
  • Drag and drop email attachments  – Simply drag and drop files from the desktop onto the Dock icons for Outlook and other Windows email clients to attach and share them
  • Multilingual keyboard – Keyboard language changes made on the Mac automatically sync, to simplify switching languages in Windows
  • Parallels Wizard – Download and automatically install Windows or other operating systems (OSes) including Google Chrome OS, Ubuntu and Android on your Mac. Parallels Desktop customers have downloaded more than 500,000 copies of Windows using the Parallels Wizard to-date, and many additional customers have moved their Windows PCs to their Mac or added Windows and other OSes
  • Bluetooth-sharing – Multiple Windows and Mac devices can now share Bluetooth connections
  • Windows apps on OS X Launchpad – Add Windows applications to the Mountain Lion or Lion Launchpad to quickly launch Mac and Windows applications used most
  • Consolidated notifications – Integration of Windows notifications into the Mac OS X Notification Center makes it easy to stay updated on Windows virtual machine operations
  • Resource monitoring – Disk space and memory usage of virtual machines are conveniently displayed for easy customization and management
  • Mountain Lion gestures for Windows apps – Enjoy seamless integration of Mountain Lion gestures with Windows apps such as pinch to zoom, Mission Control, three-finger drag, swipe between full-screen apps, two-finger scroll, Launchpad and rotate

That’s on top of its Retina display support, which allows you to enjoy high-resolution visuals in Mac and Windows environments, with crisper fonts, and “more vivid” photos, images, and animations.

In addition to all this, Parallels 8 promises to be up to 30% faster than its predecessor, Parallels 7. It’s 30% faster for input/output (I/O) operations, 30% faster for gaming, and 25% faster for virtual machine operations, including boot, suspend, shutdown, and resume.

Parallels 8 will be available from August 30 for existing Parallels customers looking to upgrade. New customers can pick up the software on September 4, both as a digital download through Parallel’s website, and as a packaged disc from Apple retail stores, Apple.com, Amazon.com, and more.

Pricing starts at $49.99 for upgrades and those switching from VMware Fusion, $79.99 for the standard retail edition, $39.99 for the student edition, and $99.99 for the “Switch to Mac” edition.

Source: Parallels