This is just a quick tip for my toolchain series, on Dragon Dictate. I think we are rapidly approaching a world where most interaction with computers will be done via some form of voice interface. I certainly think this will be the case when people are alone with their devices. I don’t think the keyboard is going away any time soon as people want to be able to have private conversations in public, and quickly flashing your thumbs over a keyboard whilst on the train is a great way to do that.
However, if you can’t use your hands then you have to search for an alternative. I use Dragon Dictate from Nuance. I’ve used it since it was MacSpeech Dictate (and it sucked then, wow). There’s a Windows version too. It really is the only viable solution I’ve come across. The big players like Apple, Google and Microsoft are getting into the voice recognition and dictation game which will inevitably edge out smaller companies like Nuance, so its days are numbered.
Until that happens: if you can’t type but you can speak, then Dragon Dictate is the thing. It’s fast and fairly accurate. You can very quickly write emails, blog posts, chat and instant messenger, annoy Sam Harris on Twitter and it also has the killer feature of being able to run custom scripts when a given voice command is spoken.
I say the words
xylophone assistance[^1], a bash script is run and all of the lights in the house flash blue, notifying my carers that I need assistance. If I say the words
xylophone helping a different bash script runs and all the lights in the house flash red which means “come quickly, my hair is on fire and I need help!”
Anyway I think that this drive in the mainstream towards more voice recognition is going to have the unintended consequence of making it easier for disabled people to use more and more stuff. All hail laziness; it’s saving my life!
[^1] On the xylophone thing: I use the word “xylophone” with all of my commands because it makes it easier for Dragon to recognise what you are saying as a command rather than ordinary speech. Just pick an unusual word as your prefix and use that for all of your commands and you’ll find Dragon will very rarely mistake ordinary speech for commands.