Monthly Archives: December 2009

Tip: Finding a command

Here’s a very quick tip.

If you know the name of a command, or even part of it, and want to look it up in the Utter Command documentation, say

   – “UC Index” to bring up the Utter Command Index
   “Find Open” to put the cursor in the find dialog box
   – type a keyword you want to look for, for instance “Wait”, “Drag” or “Before”
   “Enter” to find the first instance
   – if necessary, “Enter” again to find subsequent instances

Once you find what you’re looking for, use the reference number to call up the full lesson on the command, e.g. “UC Lesson 4 Point 5”. This is also a good way to see the consistent patterns in the Utter Command speech command set.

Tell me what you think – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

Happy new year!

Trying out Dragon Search for the iPhone

Dragon Search is a nice app. Here’s how it works: open the app, hit one button, speak the phrase you want to search for. By default the app stops listening and starts the search when you pause so you don’t have to hit another button when you’re done.

The app comes up quickly, which from a practical standpoint is extremely important. And in my experience so far the search has been fast. There’s also a button you can push to cancel out of the search. The big plus of this application is the different search channels: Google, iTunes, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube. You can search for something, like green apples, and the results will come up in the channel you used last. Once you’ve done a search you can switch channels easily to see results across channels.

I have a couple of practical suggestions.

1. The history list is just three items long — I’d like a much longer scrolling history list. Google Voice Search has a long scrolling list that includes dates. I would’ve liked to have seen Nuance improve on that.

2. I’d also like to be able to add my own channel.

I’ll also take the opportunity to repeat what I said a couple of days ago. I appreciate the progress on speech apps — don’t get me wrong. But speech on the iPhone is still not what I really want, which is system-level speech control of a mobile device that would give me the option to use speech for anything. These new apps are steps in the right direction — making the iPhone more hands-free. But there’s still a long way to go.

A few more thoughts on Dragon Dictation

I’ve been using Dragon Dictation on the iPhone a little more over the past few days and have a couple more thoughts for improvement.

1. If you select text in the full-screen application, then switch to the keyboard the text doesn’t stay selected. The text should stay selected. If you’ve selected an incorrect word or phrase, found there are no correct choices, and are proceeding to the keyboard to correct it. It’s frustrating to have to select again.

2. I’ve lost dictation a couple of times because I’ve switched out of the app — this is unexpected because writing apps like Notepad tend to stay where you left them. I suspect that Dragon Dictation maker Nuance made this choice in order to limit the number of steps for new dictation. I think there are ways to provide this valuable option without increasing steps. The quick solution would be a “remember last dictation option” in settings that would let the user decide which way to do it. Maybe a better solution would be adding a “continue” button to the bottom of the initial screen that would give you the option to continue. So if you wanted to start fresh you would press the main button in the middle of the screen, but if you wanted to continue you could press the smaller “continue” button at the bottom of the screen.

Trying out Dragon Dictation for the iPhone

I’ve been trying out the Dragon Dictation iPhone app. It’s still not what I really want, which is system-level speech control of a mobile device that would give me the option to use speech for anything. But it’s a step in the right direction of making the iPhone more hands-free.

Here’s how Dragon Dictation for the iPhone works: open the app, hit one button, speak up to 30 seconds of dictation, then hit another button to say you’re done. Your dictation shows up on the screen a few seconds later. Behind the scenes the audio file you’ve dictated is sent to a server, put through a speech-recognition engine, and the results sent back to your screen. Now you can add to your text by dictating again, or hit an actions button that gives you three choices: send what you’ve written to your e-mail app, send it to your text app, or copy it to the clipboard so you can paste it someplace else.

The recognition is usually fairly accurate in quiet environments. Not surprisingly, you get a lot of errors in noisy environments. To its credit, on a mobile device the built-in microphone is not optimal for speech-recognition. It does pretty well given these constraints.

Here’s a practical suggestion that should be easy to implement: Add a decibel meter so people can see exactly how much background noise there it is at any given time. This would make people more aware of background noise so they could set their expectations accordingly.

The interface for correcting errors is reasonable. Tap on a word and there are sometimes alternates available or you can delete it. Tap the keyboard button and you can use the regular system keyboard to clean things up.

I have two interface suggestions:

1. You can’t use the regular system copy and paste without going into the keyboard mode. You should be able to. I suspect this is fairly easy to fix.

2. There is no speech facility for correcting errors. I think there’s a practical fix here as well.

First, some background. Full dictation on a mobile device is tricky. Full dictation speech engines take a lot of horsepower. Dragon Dictation sidesteps the problem by sending the dictation over the network to a server running a speech engine. The trade-off is it’s difficult to give the user close control of the text — you must dictate in batches and wait briefly to see the results. This makes it more difficult to offer ways to correct using speech. But I think there is a good solution already in use on another platform.

Although it’s difficult to implement most speech commands given the server setup, the “Resume With” command that’s part of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking desktop speech application is a different animal. This command lets you start over at any point in the phrase you last dictated by picking up the last couple of words that will remain the same and dictating the rest over again.

This would make Dragon Dictation much more useful for people who are trying to be as hands-free as possible. It would also lower the frustration of misrecognitions and subtly teach people to dictate better.

It’s nice to see progress on mobile speech. I’m looking forward to more.