Monthly Archives: November 2010

What’s in a name? Lots.

I get a lot of inquiries from people who are confused about the Dragon speech engine’s many names, and also the name of the company that owns it.

Here’s a brief history:

The Dragon speech engine has changed hands twice, but the name of the company owning it has changed three times.
In the beginning Dragon Systems created the DragonDictate speech engine. Also in the beginning several other companies also created programs that let you speak to a computer: Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, Lernout & Hauspie, IBM and Philips. These early speech engines all required you to pause between words. This was a somewhat frustrating way to dictate and was hard on your voice.

Dragon, Lernout & Hauspie, IBM and Philips eventually improved their speech engines so you could dictate in phrases. When Dragon Systems brought out continuous speech recognition, it changed the name of its product to Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Dragon NaturallySpeaking generally worked better for dictation than DragonDictate.

People who were trying to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking hands-free, however, found that Dragon NaturallySpeaking lacked some of the DragonDictate features. Some of us who needed hands-free speech input used a combination of DragonDictate and Dragon NaturallySpeaking for years. (For me it was until NaturallySpeaking 3.5 came out. There are still a couple of features that were in the old DragonDictate that haven’t made it into Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The one I miss the most is the ability to go straight to a macro script from the recognition dialog box where you could see what Dragon had heard.) So DragonDictate was used and talked about long after development stopped.

Just before Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 5 came out Dragon Systems was sold to Lernout & Hauspie, makers of rival speech engine VoiceXpress Pro. NaturallySpeaking 6 was a merger of the products, keeping the NaturallySpeaking name and most of the look and feel (with the notable exception of the macro creation facility). When Lernout & Hauspie famously melted down, the Lernout & Hauspie speech assets were sold to ScanSoft, a company that started with optical scanning recognition technology acquired from Xerox, who acquired it by buying Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., one of several companies started by Ray Kurzweil. (The Lernout & Hauspie speech assets also included the Kurzweil Voice speech engine, which Lernout & Hauspie had acquired by buying Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, another company started by Ray Kurzweil.)

Just before ScanSoft acquired Dragon, they’d signed a 10-year deal with IBM to market IBM’s ViaVoice, which by then included PC and Mac versions. After the ScanSoft acquisition there were no more new ViaVoice products. Over the next few years ScanSoft acquired many more speech-related companies including Nuance. After the Nuance acquisition, ScanSoft switched its name to Nuance. Some people refer to the old Nuance as blue Nuance and the current Nuance as green Nuance. (This was the second name change for ScanSoft. It was founded in 1992 as Visioneer.)

This year, Nuance created an iPhone app named Dragon Dictation — name sound familiar?

Also this year Nuance bought MacSpeech. There’s some name history here too. MacSpeech’s original speech engine for the Mac, iListen, was based on Philips FreeSpeech2000 speech engine. MacSpeech changed its product name to match the company name after signing an initial deal with Nuance in early 2008 to use the Dragon NaturallySpeaking engine. (Later in 2008 Nuance bought Philips Speech Recognition Systems.) After buying MacSpeech Nuance renamed the speech engine product to Dragon Dictate for Mac. Name sound familiar? The old DragonDictate had no space between words. The new Dragon Dictate is two separate words.

OK. Got that all straight? There’s a little more nitty-gritty. The Dragon NaturallySpeaking product line includes a basic version, middle version, professional version, legal version and medical version. The professional, legal and medical versions all originally had the “Dragon NaturallySpeaking” first and middle names, but somewhere along the line the legal and medical versions lost NaturallySpeaking, becoming Dragon Legal, and Dragon Medical.

Meanwhile, the basic version and middle versions have recently changed names. The basic version has in the past gone by “standard” but is currently “home”. The middle version has in the past gone by “preferred” but is currently “premium”. There’s also a sub-basic version not usually sold by resellers that can be found in retail stores usually around Christmastime named Dragon NaturallySpeaking Essentials.

One last thing. I’m not sure where Dragon Speak came from. I’ve heard many people refer to Dragon NaturallySpeaking as Dragon Speak, but that’s never been an official name — so far.

So — I hope that clears everything up.

Utter Command has always been named Utter Command — just saying.