Monday, 22 May 2017 08:12

Nuance Dragon Professional and PowerMic 3 (review)

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Nuance has updated its PowerMic 2 to version 3 adding increased sensitivity, clarity, and a longer 2.7m USB cable.

The Nuance PowerMic 3 is a handheld microphone featuring simplified thumb-control operation for dictating, editing, navigating, and reviewing. It is the ideal way to put words on paper.

Of course, it requires a Nuance Dragon Professional product and a bit of time spent understanding how you can dictate and edit by voice. 

So, begins a review, primarily of the microphone, but also of the speech engine called Nuance Dragon Professional Individual v15 for PC. Like a bull in a china shop, I installed the Dragon software onto a Windows 10 device, plugged in the USB mic, glossed over the tutorials, and soon got feelings of total inadequacy. This review was dictated using the microphone and software so apologies if it is a little more chatty than usual – all this proves a point.

I must apologise to Nuance Australia for that introduction – its software is so comprehensive and so powerful that I should have taken the time to learn more. So, I did – I added a week of additional use before this review.

Let’s start with the obvious – turning voice into text. After a short test to get to know my voice the results were impressive. I spoke and it instantly turned voice into text without errors – every um, ah, ha, wait, go back, delete …

It is so easy to blabber and see the words appear as text in a Word Document – masses of words!

My point is that as a writer I use the PC screen as my creative tableau and I am not yet used to the discipline of speech, ordering my thoughts to produce a coherent review. Hurdle one over – it very accurately converts voice to text!

In part that is because PowerMic 3 is an improvement over PowerMic 2 – or so a medical user I consulted (not on Medicare’s watch) said, “I recommend spending a few hundred dollars on a proper microphone.  I bought a Phillips SpeechMike that at the time was better than the PowerMic 2 and was recommended by one of Dragon's resellers. It seems PowerMic 3 addresses every issue I had.”

I asked him about Dragon Medical edition. “I still use a secretary for much of the typing, but I also use Dragon Medical. I mainly use it for my operation reports and notes in Genie.” 

And he obliquely hit on the key to good use – order and structure. Dragon works best (a) to capture masses of voice to convert to text and (b) to fill in structured reports, “Patient X presented with …”

What takes a little time is getting used to inserting editing commands into the verbal flow to use Dragon to its full editing capacity. For example (see a list of commands at the end) there are commands for editing, formatting, move/cut/paste and many more. After a while, these commands become second nature, period, new line, cap. But it does yake, correct that, take practice.

The mike has USB connectivity and an extra-long 2.7 m cable so that you’re not tethered to your desk. It has a good frequency response from 20-16,000Hz. For the medical field, it has an anti-microbial surface.

It has a track point cursor that allows you to move around a screen and programmable buttons for the most commonly used default commands. You can also customise it for different environments like law enforcement or medical and the press to talk button is extremely fast – no lag between press and record.

I tested PowerMic III on a Windows 10 Core i7 device. I understand it can be used on a Mac with the additional of a shareware third-party utility named USB Overdrive. I used in in my quiet home office and with a variety of background noises such as streaming music, TV and/or the washing machine spinning. It effectively screened out external noise.

Nuance PowerMic III

Nuance options

Conclusion

After a lot of practice, I used the microphone and Dragon Professional Individual v15 to write this article. I have not had any prior review experience with Dragon and I found that to use its power you really need to learn its commands. I found the microphone was great for getting lots of text down quickly but it is going to take me some time to master two things:

  • Ordering my thoughts to reduce babble and increase coherent speech – that is a discipline thing as you usually don’t type as, and what, you speak
  • Using the formatting capabilities to reduce later editing.

I think it would be great in medical and legal fields – lawyers like the sound of their own voices as no one else listens, for writers, and those still lucky to have secretaries. I also think that as an accessibility tool for those who cannot type it would be amazing.

One thing that impressed me was taking it to an hour-long interview and having a very usable instant transcription . Note that Dragon is trained to a particular voice so I was lucky it was so accurate.

Dragon has agreed to a longer term loan of the mic and software so I will revisit this review in a month or so to update with longer use experience. I am determined to go voice!

Dragon products are sold via vertical market specialists. The microphone sells for $359.

Dragon Professional Individual V15 for Windows and V6 for Mac is $475.

Dragon Medical edition v3 for Windows is $2699 and for v5 Mac is $1499.

Dragon Naturally Speaking Legal for Windows is $1090.

There are enterprise and many other vertical markets specialities and pricing as well. For advice start at its website.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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