Sunday, October 24, 2010

Know your use case

This is the second in a series of two posts about employing new technologies that took significantly longer than I hoped or expected. The second new thing I needed to accomplish in the last few weeks, was to install and start using Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance. All these presentations blog posts reports and bookkeeping have played havoc on my shoulders and I'm looking for any solution to reduce my time at the keyboard.

I prefer to go to stores and talk to people in person, I know I must be old, but that's still what works for me. I took myself to the nearest Office Depot hoping to ask some questions about the software and perhaps see some new keyboard trays. Nobody in the store ever came up to ask if I needed any help, and when I sought help I was directed to a large screen monitor what I was told to Google my questions. Awesome. I am in your store looking for dictation software, hoping not to use keyboard, and you send me straight to a computer. I left purchasing nothing, more confused than I was before.

As a side note, I will give kudos to one employee at a different store who spent probably 20 min. on the phone with me sharing what he had done for his injuries including trying to convince me to learn an entirely new keyboard that was more ergonomic. Despite that, he had some good advice and good information.

After a good bit of searching, I finally found a grid that answered some of my questions, and confirmed which version of the software would be best for me. It also confirmed that I would be able to use the product with PowerPoint.

I picked up a copy of the software excited to get started. It took me a number of days to get the microphone to work. In fact I never got the microphone to work. Again, a number of conversations with underpaid workers overseas I was told that the microphone that came with the product would not work with my laptop because the internal array mic would override any other signal. I had to go out and purchase a USB headset. Great. I just spent$200 on some software,arguably for use by a population becoming more and more laptop dependent. I'm still not sure that tech really knew what he was talking about but back to the store I went and purchased a USB headset so that I could get moving on this project.

The headset, sadly, took more time to set up than the very complex cloud share Pogoplug that I had set up just hours before.after some convoluted web searches I gather that my problem was just that that device had not been selected as my default device. However, every time I went through the setup process where did software is learning my voice the quality check failed every time. I decided to bypass this and see what would happen. Ta da! what you have just read was all created, while mostly, by using the headset and the new software. I tried to set up 10 years ago when I had my first repetitive stress injury and it was a painful and frustrating process. I am shocked and amazed at the quality of the voice recognition this early in the process. I've had to do very few corrections, and the cheat sheets that come with the software now are superbly helpful.

There is a bit of a learning curve for complex actions, but to just sit in dictate and watch the words pop up on the screen while I rest my weary arms and shoulders is a great relief. It would be best, however, if the engineers and designers did due diligence and realize that likely at least 50% of their users will be working from laptops.

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