The following is a recent post to the MS Bar’s technology listserve on the topic of voice recognition by legal technologist Chip Westbrook, which I thought would benefit others interested in this topic:
Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional Version 9 and the VXI BlueParrott wireless Bluetooth microphone.
I've recently upgraded to this latest and best version of Nuance's top-of-the-line voice-recognition software, Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional (Version 9) and aVXI BlueParrott wireless Bluetooth microphone. In my opinion, both products are the best yet in their respective categories, although there are several things you should consider carefully before deciding whether to adopt them.
Version 9 of Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional incorporates all of the previous features of the top of the line version of the software, including the ability to instantly transcribe real-time dictation or digitally prerecorded dictation, full voice control of your computer, the ability to create and record voice macros and custom commands, and the ability to read back selected text aloud. Features new to this version are the ability to move a single user's vocabulary from computer to computer using thumb drive, a new transcription window function (which works with virtually every Windows application), slightly increased accuracy, and little or no training required (for basic conversational transcription). After about a month of use, I'm well satisfied with the program's unprecedented ability to transcribe dictation almost instantly with a high degree of accuracy. Normally, my accuracy rate is about 95 -- 98% when dictating in a quiet office environment. The software is like its predecessors in that it requires a very fast computer, lots of hard drive storage space and RAM, and a high quality microphone. The steep learning curve is still there for new users, particularly if you wish to take advantage of more advanced features, but overall, the product is more user friendly than ever. The newest version comes with only a basic "quick start" printed instructions, but the CD contains full video tutorials for basic and a few advanced functions. The main disadvantages are price (around $900 suggested retail for a single user license; upgrades are available for considerably less) and extremely limited free customer support from Nuance. You get one free technical support call. All other sessions after that must be charged to a credit card and are expensive. The professional version of the software is available only from selected retailers, or directly from Nuance. If you don't need full voice control of your computer, voice macros, and multimachine user capability, the Preferred version of this product is available for about $200 at Best Buy, OfficeMax and Office Depot. Preferred will give you acceptable accuracy for basic dictation, and is what I would recommend if you want to try out this kind of software without a huge investment. Dragon isn't going to replace a legal secretary, but it can be superior substitute for a traditional dictation system, if you're willing to make the investment in the necessary hardware, software and time to learn how to use the program to its best advantage.
Critical requirements for accurate force recognition are consistent placement of the headset microphone and recalibration of the microphone whenever it is removed and then put back on again by the user. As a result, the wired standard headsets supplied with Dragon and other force recognition products have a built-in disadvantage because you must repeat these steps each time you must return to your computer, in order to maintain the highest degree of accuracy. Until recently, almost all wireless microphones on the market were minor variations of wireless microphone systems used by musicians and entertainers. The VXI Blue Parrott wireless Bluetooth microphone is the first high quality Bluetooth wireless microphones specifically designed for voice recognition systems. It consists of a charger/base unit and an over the head microphone and monural ear speaker, with an proprietary internal rechargeable battery. My experience with this unit goes back about two months. The quality of the transcription is virtually identical to VXI's and Andrea's comparable wired commercial microphones. The VXI Bluetooth product adds the security of encryption (which means that third parties can't easily monitor your dictation). The microphone "pairs" with the base station just like a Bluetooth wireless cellular telephone headset. I'm told that this headset can be used with a Bluetooth enabled cellular phone, but I haven't tried this. The main disadvantage of the VXI product is limited battery life of about five-six hours per charge. This means that unless you buy a second headset and an independent charger, you will probably run out of battery well before the end of a normal workday. The battery is is nonremovable and can only be recharged through the VXI base unit or a separate charger. The base unit and one headset costs around $200. An extra headset and charger will run you another $170, or so. The VXI Blue Parrott is relatively expensive compared to its wired counterparts, but for heavy users of this type of software, the ability to freely move around your office without being tethered to your computer is a welcome improvement.William V. "Chip" Westbrook, III
Bryant Dukes & Blakeslee, PLLC
1639 E. Pass Rd.
Cell: 228-861-1122 and