Monday, September 3, 2012

Speech Recognition: The Writing Magic Bullet?

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

Wanting to try speech recognition software is a popular request from students at our AT Demonstration and Lending Library. These software programs have come a long way from when they were first introduced in the 1980s. The recognition accuracy has significantly increased and at the same time, the amount of time and effort to train a speech recognition program for a specific user has decreased. But there are considerations to be made if you believe speech recognition is for you.
Once a voice file has been created- the student needs a good quality microphone and your computer needs to be sufficiently powerful to run both the speech recognition program and word processor simultaneously. But a student should be aware that every word that is recognized is correctly spelled. However, a correctly spelled word does not mean the correct word choice. The student needs to be able to detect and make corrections. This is where reading with text-to-speech (TTS) comes in. A student can listen for the words and make the correction by voice in some programs (preferred since this improves recognition over time) or by using the mouse and keyboard. Additionally, some programs can play back a recording of your dictation so the student can actually hear what they said.
If hands free computer control and navigation is your goal, some dictation programs can make this a reality but with a lot of training and technical assistance from qualified professionals. The cognitive load is very high since making corrections would involve learning and remembering a large number of verbal commands. However, using a speech recognition program to be totally hands free isn’t always important or necessary for everyone. 
Besides the popular, reliable, and powerful DragonNaturallySpeaking and the new Dragon Dictate for Mac, all Microsoft Windows operating systems since Vista have very good speech recognition built into the Ease of Access. This built-in option has less navigation controls and a smaller vocabulary than a stand alone program. However, is a good option for many users and has the benefit of being free. 
Finally, SpeakQ is a speech recognition add-on to WordQ that is specifically targeted at students who have difficulty with writing. It is especially useful for students who cannot fluently dictate at a natural speaking rate, remember verbal commands, and/or get through the initial training. It is not meant to be a full feature speech recognition tool as it lacks navigation and editing commands. However, it works seamlessly with WordQ’s word prediction, combining the benefits of both of these features, and is especially useful in picking the correct homophone.
If you are interested in speech recognition, contact our ATSpecialist for a demonstration of the available options.

1 comment:

  1. Our Principal Investigator, Kurt Johnson, provided some excellent feedback we wanted to share about some of the barriers to using speech recognition:
    Speech Recognition is still very difficult for many people to learn and computer literacy is a pre-requisite for use. Three significant barriers to using speech recognition that should be taken into consideration include
    1. “lack of fluency” - the programs require fluid speech patterns with limited pauses to accurately capture speech.
    2. “cognitive load” - Many adults with neurocognitive impairment, even with significant support, are unable to effectively use speech recognition. Also, many people are very distracted by the lag for dictated text to appear on the computer screen. The divided attention required to keep dictating while monitoring text on the screen places a high demand on working memory and thought processes that makes the program unusable for many. One could turn off the screen while dictating or dictate to a portable recorder and then upload for speech recognition, but then one is faced with needing to proof for incorrectly recognized words and making corrections.
    3. Difficulty with voice recognition due to pitch, accent, or lack of articulation. Speech recognition programs continue to be a challenge for younger children, people speaking with accented English, and people with dysarthrias.
    So for those who believe speech recognition is for them, try it out in real life situation or obtain a guided demonstration from one of our AT Specialists.