At times, everyone gets frustrated with the technology that is supposed to make our lives easier and our work more efficient! So, it is natural to mutter, talk, or cajole your mouse and keyboard to do the things you would like it do!
But, that is not the type of talking we are considering right now. Did you know that the Windows operating system (both Vista and the newer version 7) contains software that allows the user to control the computer using your voice? This component is called “Speech Recognition”. Speech control, sometimes referred to as “voice recognition”, has been discussed and experimented with since at least 1952. Popular software names like Dragon Dictate have permeated the technology field for a number of years and must be purchased and installed separately on your computer.
Microsoft included a version of speech recognition primarily for dictating word processing documents with is Office XP (version 2002 and 2003) and that particular software application has been discontinued from the Office products. In its place, Microsoft has incorporated speech recognition into the operating system rather than the Office suite of products. This was an attempt to mainstream the concept of voice control of the entire computer—not simply dictating work processed documents. While it is not as feature-rich as the stand alone Nuance Dragon Dictate it is very easy to use and quite accurate. Oh, and did I mention FREE?!
If you have Microsoft Vista or Windows 7 as your operating system this piece of software is already installed and waiting, like a sleeping giant, to be awakened by you and put through its paces. What do you need besides the correct version of the operating system? Recommended would be a good quality, headset microphone. Even though you can use a desktop microphone, having a headset on allows the mic to be closer to your mouth enabling the computer to better interpret your speech. The headset also allows you to listen to any prompts the computer will give you to assist you in controlling your PC. The following bullets are from the Microsoft website:
“Before you can start using Windows Speech Recognition, you need to set up a microphone. For specific information about installing your particular microphone, check the information that came with it or go to the manufacturer’s website.
- Make sure the microphone and speakers are properly connected to your computer.
- Open Speech Recognition by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking Ease of Access, and then clicking Speech Recognition.
- Click Set up microphone.
- Follow the instructions in the wizard.”
For best results, you should also go through and read the various text paragraphs that Microsoft supplies for “training” the speech recognition module. This is necessary since everyone speaks slightly different. By having standard text read by the intended user the PC can “learn” your particular inflections and increase its accuracy.
Now that your microphone and computer are “in synch” what types of tasks can you accomplish with speech? You can control your computer—have in Open windows or programs, save, print, or close documents, have the mouse “click’ on any item, and lots more! You can also dictate and edit text in all of the Office suite of programs and you will be amazed at how accurate the software can interpret. For example, the following sentence typed flawlessly when I dictated it into Word: “They’re over there playing with their toys.” Each instance of the word “there” was typed contextually correct.
So, if you have speech recognition available on your particular operating system, give it a try!