Monday, August 6, 2007

Vista Voice Recognition

When toying around with a microphone headset recently, I stumbled upon the voice recognition software Vista has built-in. I've had a little experience with voice recognition and dictation systems in the past; I used one at my friend's house back in '98 or so and it was pretty accurate when you trained the software correctly. Back then the systems were pretty expensive and new, so I expected the one bundled with Vista to be pretty slick. After all, it has been almost a decade since I last tried something like this.

In my preliminary experience with it, it wasn't the accuracy that really stood out (though I'm sure it was fine) but ability to do stuff in Windows with your voice. For example, the command "Show Numbers" will overlay all clickable objects with a green-tinted box with a number inside it. Saying "Twenty Three, Ok" selects the box with the label 23.

I like seeing attempts at circumventing notoriously finicky voice recognition systems with decent ideas like this. It reminds me of a voice mail system with voice recognition. Especially over the phone, these systems can suck a LOT, but if you give the computer awareness of the context (in the case of voice mail, for example, which options you can potentially say) accuracy obviously goes up.

Controlling my computer with my voice is still not something I'm going to do. However much it appeals to the Star Trek geek in me to say something like, "computer, open suchandsuch document," and "computer, make me a sandwich," it's still not the way I want to interact with a PC. Videos like this tend to reinforce this.

Plus, 2001 always made me suspicious of talking to computers...

HAL: I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you.
Dave Bowman: Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
HAL: It's called "Daisy."
[sings while slowing down]
HAL: Daisy, Daisy, .....

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