I’m one of the many casualties of the Winter of 2014, dealing with the aftermath of a FOOSH – a Fracture On Out Stretched Hand. The upside is that I’ve learned a lot about voice recognition software and about occupational therapy. I’ve learned to use Dragon Dictation (free version) on my iPad and Microsoft Windows Speech Recognition on my laptop. Speech recognition is sometimes impressive, managing to get the name Marjolijn—the unpronounceable name of our Dutch project coordinator, who usually goes by “Mar”—right. Most of the time it makes me want to scream and stomp my feet.
I’m dictating this paragraph Stephen C whoops so that you can see a little of the challenge of computerized voice recognition. It’s not bad, is it? But when I get tired, the accuracy deteriorates. I keep up the Windows Speech Recognition module open on my desktop and when I want to use it I simply say, “start listening.” When I’m done, I say, “stop listening.” It’s important to say stop because otherwise the computer keeps recording. On occasion, I’ve discovered a transcript of my side of an entire conversation, on garbled but recognizable. You can imagine the trouble one could get into! I’ve even dictate the punctuation I am using here. And I dictated this paragraph with only a few corrections made, also by verbal command.
This is what happened when I tried to dictate the word gung ho:
I did not like being called a gun whole American when I lived in London. Later, when I started working with Chinese people, I enjoyed the idea that I was gone home. But one sometimes pays a price for gung-ho enthusiasm.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my winter purgatory:
- Safety “yaktrax” are dangerous in the wrong circumstances. (When I explained how I fell and broke my wrist to staffers at the orthopedics office, two people exclaimed, “But Dr. Cohen just bought those for all of us!”)
- United States doctors will recommend surgery for cosmetic reasons and it’s unusual for people to say no, as I did.
- Swype on Android is a lifesaver.
- Apple is wildly behind the curve with “swipe” typing. There is no Swype for the iPad.
- Dragon on iPad does NOT save documents even though it gives you the option to Save.
- Occupational therapy after cast removal is very important. Here’s a photo of the therapist setting up one of the exercises I do to regain strength. It may look like a game but you’d be surprised how tired a hand can get.
The Microsoft Windows Speech Recognition that comes with most PCs is fairly good, though it depends on the user’s training the computer by reading aloud sample text. In theory, the software learns from corrections one makes, and should understand the user’s accent better and better all the time. But in my experience this is not the case. It prefers a very flat, very middle American accent. Sometimes when it is not “getting” the word, I try an exaggerated American accent. That usually works. Rereading the sample text can help when the quality begins to deteriorate. And the speech memory is individual. Marjolijn tells me that she once talked to her boyfriend’s computer and completely messed up his software.
Here are some resources I found:
- http://www.mymsspeech.com/, a free tip sheet and inexpensive software to improve the Microsoft Windows system.
- http://emicrophones.com/, high quality microphones and Dragon Dictation software at a big discount. Good customer service by telephone.
And here is a cheap, effective ice pack recipe, courtesy of the Fairview Hospital Rehabilitation Department where I’m doing my OT (Occupational Therapy).
Homemade Ice Pack: Mix 3 cups of water with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol in a heavy-duty ziplock plastic bag. Seal the bag, and seal it inside another bag. Place in the freezer. When frozen, the liquid will be slushy and easy to wrap around the injured area. Wrap the bag in a towel to protect your skin. Use it for no more than 10 minutes at a time, but still icing to reduce inflammation and pain.