Can You Repeat That Please

Here is a transcript of the video.

T’other day I was talking about my attempts to work with speech recognition, and its frequent comical interpretations of what it thinks it’s heard. When I say, ‘it’s choosing to behave itself this morning,’ why does it assume I’ve said, ‘A not quite used to Bernie be him itself this morning’?

Aside from anything else, I don’t know anyone called Bernie.

When arthritis begins to take hold you’re going to need all sorts of aids to let you lead a normal working life. Naturally the mere mention of that word ‘aids’ has the spammers jumping on board to offer you aids of a different kind: aids designed for rather less salubrious purposes. Before I know it, my inbox is full of offers on creams, gels and appliances, many of which, while claiming to be for the enhancement of dubious pleasurable activities, could have come straight from the Spanish Inquisition’s spring and summer catalogue.

However, I digress. So, dragging this article kicking and screaming back where it belongs, I’m a writer. What is it I need assistance with? Well, it’s working with the keyboard for hours and hours on end. It doesn’t half make your fingers ache, and speech recognition software, aside from easing that pain, allows me to roll a cigarette, flip through the TV channels, etc, while still composing my day’s work.

Bearing this in mind, even after the early problems, I decided to persevere with the software, at least for the time being.

A post like this would typically take about half an hour to write, and a further 30 minutes to spellcheck, edit, tidy up and upload to my blog. Speech recognition is very much slower than that and I needed some kind of procedure to speed up the process.

When I’m typing I don’t pause to make corrections. I simply carry on working until the piece is finished or until I reach a natural break where I have to consider which way the story is going, and then I make any necessary corrections. So would it make any difference if I employed the same principle when using speech recognition?

There was only one way to find out: try it.

As a consequence this post was prepared using speech recognition to the total exclusion of the keyboard, and I timed the entire process. I say exclusively but I did revert to the keyboard when the misinterpretations and attempted corrections mangled the prose so much that it became unintelligible and I couldn’t find a way to correct it with the microphone.

Control codes are the most problematic aspect of this system. It comes with a list of the verbal commands dedicated to controlling the text flow, but bloody machine doesn’t always interpret them correctly. As a result I’m constantly backtracking in an effort to correct the mistakes it makes, and more often than not, I simply compound them. Before you know it, I’m using the keyboard to put matters right.

It’s a bit like talking to the wife, the only difference being I can’t put her right using the keyboard.

Now there’s a notion to play with…

The article took about an hour to produce, but that time included faffing about, correcting the numerous misinterpretations. It still slightly slower than using the keyboard, but not so much that it’s noticeable.

My initial concentration was on speed, but is that what it’s all about? I have to keep an eye on the future, ensuring that if and when the time comes that I’ll no longer be able type with any accuracy or speed, speech recognition will be not merely preferable but essential, and for that reason I will persevere with it.

It’s a steep learning curve, but one thing I’ve already discovered is that if I modulate my parade-ground bark the software responds more accurately. The system is obviously more responsive to seduction rather than instruction, which once more reminds me of the missus.

And on a final note, the system is very sensitive. When Joe, our crazy Jack Russell terrier, is barking at the postman, the software arbitrarily assumes I’m saying it’s time for another cigarette.


And now the moment you’ve been gagging for.

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