I didn’t get to too many workshops at the Assistive Technology Industry Association conference this year, because I only attended for one full day. I did stop into a presentation on speech-recognition for the deaf, led by Ed Rosenthal, CEO of Next Generation Technologies, a consulting firm.
Rosenthal is a certified partner, and been working for 20 years, with Nuance Communications Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, and says that the technology had its first real breakthrough about three years ago when it debuted its latest version — 10 Preferred ($199).
Now, Rosenthal says, he believes the speech-to-text program works well enough to be used as a real-time captioning tool for the deaf in the workplace. The Dragon program is said to work “three times faster than most people type, with accuracy rates of up to 99% right out of the box.”
In a demonstration, Rosenthal opened up a Word document and began speaking (into a wireless mike) at about 120 words per minute, pretending he was an executive at Toyota. Taking a page from the news – Toyota recently recalled 2.3 million cars — he spoke to a roomful of “Toyota salesmen” about the carmaker’s issues. The entire “meeting” was translated to perfection, with the exception of one line: “I’ve instructed all of our sales agents to stop selling our eight models until the Hollywood acceleration can be solved.”
Hollywood? Rosenthal quickly pulled up a word correction tool. The final document then read: “I’ve instructed all of our sales agents to stop selling our eight models until the problem with acceleration can be solved.”
Of course, Rosenthal (a has created an extensive profile for his voice, but says it takes around 20 minutes for anyone to set up a profile, which is done by reading a story out loud so NaturallySpeaking 10 can capture the speed, tone and inflection of a user’s voice.
Rosenthalsays he believes that for ad hoc meetings when an interpreter isn’t available for a deaf person, or if a hard of hearing person just wants some visual support at a meeting, then NaturallySpeaking can do the trick just fine.
I agree, that even with small mistakes, a person with a hearing impairment would welcome any kind of text to supplement a conference or meeting. I asked him about virtual conference calls – could an executive conceivably use NaturallySpeaking and push the text out via an instant message program? Rosenthal wasn’t sure, but he thinks it’s possible. At the very least, the executive (or his secretary) can email out a transcript of the call after it ends.
NaturallySpeaking works in Word, Excel, Corel WordPerfect and most other Windows-based applications. The Professional version ($899) is more ideal for the workplace because it also works in PowerPoint, Lotus Notes, and Microsoft Outlook. Either way, both versions can take advantage of corporate speak and save it in your profile. That’s great for when the boss needs those TPS reports by noon.