Monday, May 18, 2015

Dictating the future

When I was a kid, I used to dream about the future technology would bring. I watched Star Trek on television, and I used to want communicators like they had, computers you could talk to, and transporters. Nowadays, we have cellphones, we can talk to our computers—though we still don’t have those transporters. This weekend, I tried out talking to my computer.

Last Thursday, I wrote about cleaning the drains and mentioned lifting the grates on the slit drains. When I did that, I wrenched my index finger. For most people, this might not be a big deal, however, for someone with gout, any injury to a joint can cause an attack. That’s what happened to me.

I had an attack in that same joint several years ago. It was a minor attack, but still damaged the joint, and that joint has been bothering me lately. So, even if this slight injury wouldn’t ordinarily have caused an attack, this time it was primed for badness to happen.

The problem with this injury is that it’s my mousing finger: That means that it’s very difficult to use my mouse, so I found using my computer to be difficult—even painful. So, I thought that I’d try dictating to my computer and letting it do the typing.

The results were uneven. My first problem was that the audio levels from my microphone were too low for the computer to register. I’ve had a similar problem recording podcasts, actually. So, I plugged in my webcam, which has its own microphone, and that worked perfectly–well, that mic did, at least.

I found that there were issues with the word recognition. First, it often didn’t understand that it needed to put wordspaces after punctuation. Other times, it used entirely the wrong word. For example, if I said I’ve the computer heard Eyes (though, of course, not when I dictated that sentence for this post…), even if I emphasised the letter V. Of course, sometimes the results were funny, but that’s not what I was after (some of the oddities are at the end of this post).

Another problem was that I felt silly talking to the computer when Nigel was in the house. That’s the same reason that I don’t record a podcast when he’s home. But, if I’m honest, the larger issue was that I needed to speak slowly and to enunciate clearly, both of which may be good things in themselves—I often do talk too quickly and mumble too much—but the pace of speaking isn’t natural and it made me feel silly.

Still, it did work to an extent. It meant I didn’t have to type everything, although I still had to do heavy editing because of the errors in word choice and spacing. Even so, it gave my index finger a rest, which was the whole point.

I was surprised to realise through all this that when I type I often don’t use my index fingers. That’s because I was never taught to type—I taught myself. So, this really was more about avoiding the mousing problems, and not just about not typing, and it did somewhat help with that.

This morning, before I finished dictating this post, I dictated a short email and it went pretty well. Maybe length of text is the real problem..

In sum, I can say that this dictation thing can be a sort of a help, but it’s nowhere near what I wanted when I was a kid. Sure, it’s much better than it used to be, but it ain’t there yet. Good thing that cellphones are so much better than the Star Trek communicators were.

I think I’ll wait until they get dictation right before I ever trust any transporter, though.

Summary of my experience:

It often didn’t put in wordspaces, and it sometimes misheard words, such as: Often became Awesome, Wordspace became Workspace (that one I can understand happening), and Enunciate became E Nancy eight.

On the other hand, it got some words right that I thought it wouldn’t: Star Trek, Nigel, mousing, and ain’t, for example.


rogerogreen said...

Very interesting! Still, I hope you feel better. (And a reminder for me to avoid tools...)

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

In this case, it was arguably the lack of appropriate tools, combined with impatience, that led to my predicament…