Nuance, the makers of Dragon Dictation release a new app to rival Apples impressive dictation tool.
In every generation there’s a sci fi film that truly suspends our disbelief and permits us to ponder what life in the future will bring. In the 60’s it was Space Odyssey 2001, the 70’s Star Trek, and in the 80’s ‘Back to the Future 2 (BTF2).’ While Space Odyssey’ and Star Trek were wildly off the mark, as the 21st October 2015 approaches (the future date that Marty McFly travels to in BTF2) it seems like the writers of BFT2 somehow created a strangely accurate prediction of life in 2015.
3D films are back in our cinemas, we have video calling on our TV’s, voice control of our electronic devices, Self-lacing Trainers will soon be a reality and amazingly the hover board is actually a thing!!!
When it first came out I watched BTF2 with a sense of excitement and anticipation for a time when the films predictions would be a reality. 26 years later all of these things (bar the hoverboard…for now) are actual consumer goods. What’s interesting though, is how reluctant we are to use these amazing technological developments. I’m rarely inspired to pay the extra £3 or £4 to see a 3D film, and rather than using video calling as my main form of communication, SMS and DM is generally my first port of call. There is however one predicted development that does have the potential to live up to the promise of BTF2. Voice controlled technology.
I remember a few years back trying the iPhone dictation app from Dragon and being far from impressed. It probably only successfully converted around 80% of my speech (85% if I spoke in an American accent). Based on this negative experience I tended to give ‘speech to text’ (voice activated dictation apps) a wide birth.
That was until an eye opening incident in an Apple store with a Genius and an Apple watch. While I was trying on the watch I was shown a function where I could choose to drop an inconvenient call and instead dictate and send a text message via the watch. Needless to say I scoffed at the ridiculous notion of using such a ropey piece of speech to text tech to dictate a message. And believe me, I had no qualms in telling the ‘Genius’ what I thought of this idea. When I’d finished my rant the ‘Genius’ pointed at the watch to show me that it had perfectly and accurately transcribe my whole rant. Cue a mahoosive helping of Humble Pie.
When I got home I was determined to see if this function worked on my phone and test exactly how much it could do. It worked a little something like this…
I was so impressed that I now regularly use ‘speech to text’ to send many of my sms and instant messages.
Last week I heard that Dragon is about to launch a brand new dictation app. But with Apples app being so impressive how can Nuance (the makers of Dragon) expect users to pay for an experience they can currently get for free?
While iPhone dictation allows you to quickly and accurately dictate short messages and emails, what Dragon Anywhere offers you is complete and unlimited voice control of your text no matter how complex.
The first area where Dragon totally trumps iOS is on the amount of text you can dictate. On the iPhone I get between 50 and 100 words (depending on the speed I speak) before dictation stops. Dragon Anywhere will allow you to dictate for as long as you have content to write.
For me the main problem with iOS dictation is that it requires a constant stream of perfectly formed thoughts and instructions. There’s no room for error, no allowance to change your mind and no way to make a correction.
So while iOS might be an impressive Swiss Army knife of the mobile dictation world; Dragon Anywhere is a full on carpenters tool kit. With nothing but your voice Dragon Anywhere allows you to move your cursor around the document, select words or phrases, delete words, add words, add formatting, navigate the programme, and share to Word, Evernote and Email. Now this may be over kill for a short text message, but you can see how this could come in to its own on a tablet and in conjunction with an app like MS Word.
I can imagine getting large bodies of writing done in the back of a cab, or dare I say sitting on the lav! Or more appropriately this could allow me to get out of the office, sit in a park and get the basic structure of a complicated blog post, dissertation or report done in a chilled environment. I could then push the text to Word to polish and fully format on my laptop.
At the moment it’s unclear whether there will be a text to speech function bundled with the app software to help with proof reading. This addition would make this a truly killer app.
This undoubtedly looks like it will be a wonderful productivity tool for anyone that finds writing or typing large bodies of text a challenge, but I wonder whether the subscription payment model, (which I personally hate) will put it out of the range of only those using it in a professional setting. This would be a great app for students but I fear they may be priced out of the equation.
Dragon Anywhere will be available to download from the App Store or Google Play this autumn. Click here for more news and views on dyslexia friendly assistive tech.
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