By Asa Bacon
Years ago, I acquired a physical disability, that affected my fingers as well. Typing slowly with many errors becomes a nuisance and time consuming. It would be great if my computer allowed me to dictate to it like a digital secretary. Well, as of 2007 it can. With the debut of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced Windows Speech Recognition.
Many of us today are familiar with voice recognition from our digital devices such as smartphones. But it seems that a lot of the public is unfamiliar with a very useful part of the Windows (TM) operating system called Windows Speech Recognition (WSR). Speech recognition focuses on the translation of audible speech to text, whereas voice recognition just seeks to identify an individual’s voice to perform various functions. In Windows 10 (also in Windows 7 and Windows 8) the Speech Recognition feature can be used to control the desktop, launch apps, and convert speech to text in word processing and other applications.
Windows Speech Recognition was primarily designed to help people with disabilities who couldn’t use a mouse or keyboard, as part of Microsoft’s accessibility features. I have a physical disability myself and have been using Windows Speech Recognition for years. But anyone can set up and use this feature to navigate Windows and dictate text. Once you have it set up and have gotten familiar with the program, you will find that you can get up to 95% accuracy with speech recognition. You’ll be using your Microsoft Word, Excel, and email hands-free in no time.
To use the software effectively you should first make sure you have the right hardware. Most mid-range tablets, laptops, and desktops will have the necessary processing and storage space to use the software optimally. Even some of the budget laptops will be able to harness the power of the software, just avoid opening many programs at once. I recommend a processor of i3, i5 or higher. For the sound card I recommend using an external USB sound card. This is because most tablets and laptops have a lot of internal noise (even some desktops do). I also recommend a noise-canceling headset with a mic that can plug into the external sound card.
To get the hardware and software set up properly, from your Windows desktop, go to Search on the taskbar. Type “Control Panel”. Next, click on “Ease of Access”. Next, click on “Speech Recognition”. When that opens, go through the steps to set up your microphone and take the short tutorial. I recommend doing some voice training at first, so the software understands your voice. After using the software for a while, you can go back and do a little more training so that it adapts to your voice better. Then go onto the Microsoft support site to get instructions on using specific commands to control your desktop, your web browser, dictate to your word processor or email app, etc. There will be times when the software will get on your nerves. At those times just close the software. Use your keyboard for a bit and then reopen the speech recognition software.
On a personal note, this article was created, edited and rewritten using the Windows speech recognition program. I also use speech recognition when I’m surfing the web and using either Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. The software is also helpful for me when I’m writing e-mails. By the way, similar software is also available in other major operating systems such as Apple or Android.
Good luck with your hands-free speech recognition adventure. If you have any problems or questions call Windows support. If you have any type of physical restriction, call Windows disability support for in-depth support.
Asa Bacon is a 50-year-old bookkeeper who lives in Long Island, New York. He is a fan of real history, science fact and fiction. Mr. Bacon is on the Board of Directors of the New York Amateur Computer Club. He will be giving a presentation about speech recognition in January 2021. Call 516-655-6803 or go to NYACC.org for Zoom directions. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive details on accessing the Zoom meeting.
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