Long before Apple’s Mac OS X roared like a Mountain Lion, long before servers inside of data centres were known as clouds, voice recognition and dictation was delivered as software that sat on your computer.
It was a revolutionary time when computers worked without that “Internet” thingy, safe from prying eyes in governments, companies and backdoor botnets.
Although cloud technologies are now more mature than ever, and deliver incredible benefits that have gone a long way to mitigating at least some of the security concerns that people have about the cloud, it’s good to know there’s still plenty of software that doesn’t need 24x7 cloud access – or any cloud access - to do its job.
So, while the future of the world is cloudy, in at least two different senses, with online and offline (or hybrid) solutions the best way for cloud augmented solutions to work, Nuance’s Dragon Dictate 3.0 for Mac only needs Internet access to check for updates, and for the initial activation process that ensures you’re running a legitimate copy of the software.
I’ve installed Dragon 3.0 onto my Mac, and even without a USB headset, simply using the Mac’s built in microphone, the software lives up to the claim of being “the most powerful, accurate and personalised voice recognition software for the Mac available on the market today”.
Not needing online access also means the claim of letting you “quickly and easily create and edit content, and command and control their favourite Mac applications by voice – anytime, anywhere” is also completely accurate.
Boasting a “15% increase in accuracy [compared to the previous version 2.5], new Smart Format Rules and new correction capabilities for a personalised experience”, Dragon 3.0 also includes “wideband Bluetooth support” and “the ability to transcribe recorded audio files from a single speaker”, among a host of other features.
Nuance’s Chief Marketing Officer and senior veep of Dragon, Peter Mahoney, said in a statement that: “Dragon Dictate delivers an incredibly powerful voice experience for the Mac community, with the ability to not only speak text for documents, emails and more, but also command and control the Mac applications and features people use the most.”
Mr Mahoney continued, stating: “We’ve been incredibly focused on bringing new features and increased accuracy to this latest version of Dragon Dictate so Mac users can experience the accuracy, speed and productivity that results from speaking instead of typing.”
Aside from the 15% accuracy boost, Dragon 3.0 now “detects formatting changes such as abbreviations, numbers and more, so dictated text appears the way you prefer – every time”.
The new software also lets you “use speech to correct individual words or phrases through a single, easy to understand window that lets you select alternate word choices, or spell and train new words”, while including a “richer list of alternative word choices, so when making a correction, it’s more likely that the word or phrase intended will be presented as an option”.
Additional smarts mean that “when a correction is made, Dragon remembers and learns your preferences, making it more accurate each time”, also featuring a “Vocabulary Editor” which gives you “the ability to set alternative written forms of words or phrases (e.g. grey vs. gray).”
Voice command control is also active in more applications, and there’s even a new “Express Editor” that lets you “dictate into a text field for which it does not have Full Text Control”, whereupon you can “transfer the text from the Express Editor to the desired application quickly and easily by voice”.
For those who like to dictate into a personal audio recorder, be it a digital voice recorder, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, Dragon Dictate 3.0 “lets you transcribe recorded audio files so you can capture your thoughts while they’re still fresh in your mind” – supporting “.wav, .m4a, .m4v, .mp4, .aif, and .aiff audio file formats” – including voice recordings made with “the free Dragon Recorder app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (4th gen).”
If you have a Bluetooth wireless headset microphone with “16Khz wideband” support, you can use it for dictation too, thanks to the “higher-quality audio signal” this wideband delivers.
If your Bluetooth headset is supported, you’ll see “Enhanced Bluetooth” as an audio source type, which “eliminates the requirement for Bluetooth users to do initial voice training”, something that allows you “to get started faster than ever before.”
Available for AUD $199.95, those who own MacSpeech Dictate or an earlier Dragon Dictate version can upgrade for AUD $149.95 from the Nuance website here.
So, to conclude, my initial testing of Dragon Dictate 3.0 for Mac shows that the new software truly does live up to the claim of greater accuracy without needing access to the Internet, speeding up the ability to get your thoughts onto paper and dramatically speeding up the process of “typing” – especially for those who type slowly with one or two fingers.