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iPhone App Review: Dragon Dictation

by Jason Sanders on December 14, 2009 · 0 comments

in Blogging,iPhone

iphone1Ever since I got my iPhone a few months back, I’ve been regularly scouring the App Store looking for an application that would translate my spoken voice, or a recording into typed text.  There have been some out there that provided partial solutions, such as converting spoken word to a text message.  The trade off was that the recording was hosted on the developers server.  And after doing some research I discovered that the actual translation was done by human translators in foreign countries.  This just didn’t sit well with me.  Neither did the fact that the message was delivered with an advertisement for the application embedded in it, and that you couldn’t change the title of the message.

So I waited, figuring eventually a true technology solution would be released along the lines of Dragon Naturally Speaking software.  Last week, my dream was realized when the Dragon Dictation app was released!  I was more than excited, because finally there was a tool to speed up my blogging and it was at an incredible savings (the App is totally FREE).  I had figured out that if I had bought the Dragon Naturally Speaking software package that supported translation from a voice recorder, and a compliant voice recorder, I would have probably spent over $300.00.  That kind of savings really puts a smile on my face :-D!

iphone2The interface of the application is extremely simple and intuitive.  You push a single button to start recording.  As your speaking the application is recording, but not immediately translating.  If you give a long pause, or if you hit the “Done” button, it will then process the recording into text.  At that point you can review it’s work for accuracy.  They’ve done a pretty good job with the user interface. If the application has made a mistake, you can tap on the word that is wrong and it will give you some likely replacements (hopefully this feature will get better), or you can just delete the word easily and use the keyboard feature to type in the correct word.

Using the editing screen you can move the cursor around and then record again.  This makes it easy to go back and expand on a thought that you’ve already put down.

If this is your first exposure to this technology, you may not realize that you have to speak your punctuation.  If you want it to type “,” you have to say “comma”.  The same goes for periods, exclamation marks, question marks, and new paragraphs.  It takes some getting used to, but, once you’ve got it, it’s no big deal.

Once you’ve finished you just hit the export button on the right side of the button bar to send your words off to their destination.  You have the option to: Send to Mail, Send to Txt Msg, or Send to Clipboard.  This is where the app breaks down a bit.  The Send to Mail option doesn’t always work for me.  I had the best success with using Send to Clipboard, and then going to my mailbox and pasting it in.

iphone3I’m not an owner of the Naturally Speaking software, so I can’t compare the performance of the two, but I can say that it is pretty accurate, though not always perfect.  From documentation that I’ve read, if you have any kind of strong accent, you may have a lot more trouble with accuracy.

Things I would like to see improve:

  1. The word suggestions provided to remedy “mistranslated” words were never even close.  There seems to be room for improvement there.
  2. There’s also no way to save your work.  If you have to pop out of the app for some reason, everything you’ve done gets erased. (Perhaps this will be remedied in a premium paid version).
  3. The ability to translate a voice recording stored on the iPhone.
  4. It would be great they made it so it was translating live as you spoke…so you could see the words as they were typed.  This would allow you to spot mistakes easier and I think make the flow better.  As it is now, the stopping, reviewing and any editing that needs to happen tends to break up my rhythm and thought pattern.

iphone4My Take:

I’m really glad I got a chance to play with this application before I went and dropped $300.00 on a separate solution of software and a voice recorder.  The Dragon Naturally Speaking software does a lot more than this app, essentially letting you control all functions of your computer with your voice, but the reality is that I only wanted it for this single specific use.  The even harder reality is that in using the application, I’ve discovered that I’m not very good at speaking my thoughts.  Believe it or not, it actually felt stifling, and much slower than typing.

I want to emphasize that it felt that way to me.  You may have a totally different take.

Upon some self examination, I was surprised to realize that my personal writing style seems to consist of a cloud of thoughts and then sentences that fly from my fingers like lighting.  The same thoughts don’t have such an easy time flying out of my mouth.  I also type really fast, so maybe that’s why I didn’t notice any improvement in speed with the Dictation App.

I think playing with this app has in a small way made me a better writer, in the sense of understanding my own pen.  I’m in no way giving up on the technology.  I plan on working with it more to see if I can develop the skill that would allow me write while on the go.  If I’m successful, I’m sure you’ll hear about it in an upcoming blog post!

Jason Sanders @ValuePagesGroup
Business Networking Specialist

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