Dragon Dictation Trials and Errors

I try an iPad-based dictation tool.

Note: This blog post was dictated into my iPad. Although I’d originally hoped to display the text in two columns to show unedited and edited text (as referred to in the post), I later decided to use DEL and INS tags to show actual text edits required — places where Dragon Dictation actually got it wrong. I did not correct my failure to dictate punctuation or my poor use of words, since those are my errors and not the software’s. A few additional comments are included in square brackets in the text.

I am trying something different today. I’m writing a blog post by dictating into my iPad.

I’m using a program called Capps dDragon caps dDictation. I downloaded it for free on my iPad not long after I bought the iPad. I’ve tried it a few times, and was very pleased with the results. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to using dictation software and simply saying what you want to say.

These first two paragraph are good example. On the left you see my dictated version. On the right you see my edited version. Notice the changes I needed to make. It’s really not bad, but not exactly perfect.

The main problem with using dictation software. See is that you have to dictate everything you want to type. That means you have to dictate your punctuation, capitalization, quotes, and any other information that you want to put in your text other than the exact words.

You also need to speak clearly directly into a microphone. On the iPad that’s not exactly convenient since the microphone is at the top of the iPad. Right now my iPad is standing up on my table with the microphone close to my mouth so that so that Dragon dictation can understand what I’m saying. Of course if you have an external microphone it will work with that as well.

You also need to be careful about what you say. Any mistakes you make will be transcribed. This makes dictation a useful tool for getting out of a first draft, but not for getting final text. You’ll still have to go through the document and make changes to it as necessary to correct errors and rephrase sentences.

As I dictate this today, I see that I’m quickly getting the hang of it. Although it’s not natural for me to do this, I don’t think it will be difficult to learn. What amazes me the most, is the way the software can recognize exactly what I’m saying. I haven’t edited any of this text other than what you sought saw at the top of this post. [Not true; read note at top of post.] Get Yet as you can see dragon dictation has managed to understand almost everything that I’ve said. This absolutely amazes me. What I don’t understand, however, is how many people reported that dragon dictation could not understand them. The overall reviews in the iTunes store for the app are very low. I can only assume that these people are not speaking slowly and clearly so that the software can understand them.

What I do find a little bothersome about this software is that it needs an Internet connection to work. As I speak it evidently records what I say and then when I’m done it sends it to the Dragon dictation website words where it’s translated and returned to me. This isn’tthe best solution if you don’t have an Internet connection all the time. But given the price of the software, which was free, I really can’t complain.

Another thing I find a little bit bothersome is the fact that it evidently has a buffer. I can’t just go on talking for a long period of time and expect the software to be able to translate. Instead it automatically cuts me off gets the translation in and puts it in the software sometimes while I’m still talking. [Boy, that previous sentence could sure benefit from some commas.] This means that I need to stop at the end of every long paragraph let it translate and then start again.

It’s interesting to me also how the software does not recognize upon a pause as a place to put a comma or period it’s also interesting to me that it probably just inserted those two forms of punctuation instead of the words that I just set. Let’s see. That’s funny it’s got the words as I said them and didn’t put in punctuation. I guess it does take a little bit of time to get used to this. [This whole paragraph is a good example of experimenting. Believe it or not, Dragon dictation made only one error; the other errors were mine.]

As a writer, it’s a dream to be able to say what you want to say and have it automatically typed for you. But the reality is and not so sweet. In reality, I can type a lot faster than I can do this dictation. I can also make a lot fewer mistakes. And I can edit as I go along.

Still, I think the thing that bothers me the most, is that I have to stop at the end of every long paragraph to let Dragon dictation catch up. I don’t type like this. I don’t think like this. I tend to type thing [I corrected myself here but DD didn't know that.] right write a lot more a lot more fluidly. I also don’t think about the comments commas that I need to put in my documents.

Overall what do I think of this? I think it has its uses, but I can’t see using it as a normal writing tool. I’ll keep experimenting with it, but I’m not sure whether it will ever be something I use daily.

If you have an iPad or my phone iPhone I recommend giving this a try. You might like it. And if you like it a lot. You might want to buy the regular software that they self sell for your computer. They have a Windows version and a Mac version.

5 thoughts on “Dragon Dictation Trials and Errors

  1. I love this app! I use it on my phone when I’m composing longer texts or emails. I find the need for an internet connection is a reasonable tradeoff for the price. The desktop version, of course, uses a local library, so you can dictate for hours without pause. There’s a medical version that some of the doctors I work with use, and they love it.

  2. The second paragraph of your post, with its promise to correct the mistakes made by Daragon Dictation, ends with this sentence:

    “Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to using dictation software and simply saying what you want to say.”

    I suspect that your dictation software failed to “hear” the “th-” when you said, in effect, “There’s more to A than B,” thus coming up with “There’s more to A and B.”

    If this is true, the lesson here is not merely that dictation software is imperfect, but so too are its human editors. I agree with your conclusion: “You’ll still have to go through the document and make changes to it as necessary to correct errors and rephrase sentences.” That’s why I want to encourage you to correct the phrase “As a writer, it’s a dream . . .” and see whether something might be done to rephrase at least a few of the following:

    “What amazes me the most . . .”
    “What I don’t understand . . .”
    “What I do find a little bothersome . . .”
    “Another thing I find a little bit bothersome . . .”
    “. . . the thing that bothers me the most . . .”

    To my mind, it’s the software in the writer’s brain that makes the difference between good writing and bad.

    • Robert: I’m not sure if I get your point. Are you pointing out that I’m in imperfect editor? Okay. Are you trying to say that I need to dictate fully thought-out sentences to avoid editing? Wish I could.

      Please understand that this was a test of the software to see how well it could recognize what I said. I think it did a pretty damn good job. While it was also a test to see whether I could dictate full sentences and paragraphs, it was the first time I had ever attempted to do so. I think I did a pretty damn good job, too. You try it and see how you do.

      As for correcting style as you suggest, that was not the point of this exercise. The point was to test recognition. I edited only what Dragon (not “Daragon”) Dictation “heard” incorrectly.

      And remember: this is a blog. Until I start getting paid for my writing work here, it will never be anywhere as good as the writing work I am paid to do.

  3. If it’s anything like Dragon Naturally Speaking it requires a very unnatural and flat way of speaking, which is a real drawback when writing about something exciting.

    • Ambrose: In my opinion, dictation software could never be an all-purpose tool for serious writers. I think it’s best used for getting ideas down as they come to you. You’ll still need to go back and edit.

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