Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time for Talkies; Does Voice Recognition Spell the End for Speedy and Proficient Typists?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time for Talkies; Does Voice Recognition Spell the End for Speedy and Proficient Typists?

Article excerpt

Byline: RAWDON MESSENGER

THE most common words that people lob in the direction of their computers are obscenities. But with the growth of Voice Recognition Software (VRS), that is changing. Armed with a canny VRS application and a microphone, PCs can lend a kind ear to weary workers and turn their speech to written words. However, there is a downside - could this spell the end for touch typists?

There are two types of VRS. The more pervasive, called Command and Control, is found in mobiles and call centres. The human operator gives simple voice commands to the computer, such as "check email". This type will understand any person but is unable to interpret natural speech.

The other sort, known as Continuous Speech, uses clever computer applications to differentiate the sounds that we emit when talking.

The software has a library of hundreds of thousands of human utterances.

The system digitally records speech via a microphone, then tries to match it with the terms in its database and, bingo!

Users can expect between 95 per cent and 98 per cent accuracy. Corrections - called "speakos" rather than "typos" - can be made by voice or keyboard.

Dictation can be done by one person and corrected and formatted later by someone else. The clever program can even learn from its mistakes.

VRS can speak to most common applications, including Word, Outlook and more specialised software such as medical transcription tools, surf the web and enter chat rooms.

"We can now speak at up to 140 words per minute, and the computer will transcribe our dictation just as if we were typing," says Grant Fairly of McK, a VRS consultancy.

"I was never a very fast typist," says Florence Jones, a PA at an advertising agency. "With the voice tool I feel like Speedy Gonzalez.

My hands are free and I have more time to take care of business."

Most users are those who need to deal with high volumes of words, such as doctors, lawyers, educators and, of course, secretaries. …

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