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“Although the opening words of our column appear on the computer display cannot our fingers never touched the keyboard. Instead of typing, we are speaking into a plan China next digital microphone that takes out awards into the computer and version 5 of Dragon Systems’s NaturallySpeaking software. As you can say cannot we have yet to achieve perfect speech recognition, however the program mostly doesn’t work.” At least that is what Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional, Legal Solutions, Version 5 heard from our Plantronics digital USB microphone. As you can see, the results were not perfect — we didn’t say “cannot,” “plan China next,” “out awards,” “Systems’s,” “say,” “cannot” or “doesn’t,” but, instead, “comma,” “Plantronics,” “our words,” “System’s,” “see,” “comma” and “does” — but that was our initial draft, and we didn’t bother to attempt to correct the paragraph, using either the keyboard or the microphone. This week we report on our adventurers with Version 5 of the Dragon Professional Series, the latest version of a venerable product. INSTALLATION, DOCUMENTATION, SUPPORT We installed Version 5 from a CD-ROM. The install program asked whether we wished to use the user speech files we had created with an earlier version of NaturallySpeaking; we answered “Yes” as this would likely save us the 15 to 30 minutes necessary to “train” the program to recognize our particular voice/microphone/sound card combination. Alas, the old file never made it to the new program and we had to go through the training routine again. Training consists of reading into the microphone paragraphs that appear on screen; the program apparently compares the known text with the sounds that it hears. In the past we have spent more than 25 minutes reading aloud to NaturallySpeaking; Version 5′s new training routine took less than five minutes. Obviously, a big improvement, if it does as well. Version 5 comes with hundreds of pages of manuals for NaturallySpeaking, itself, and for the bundled SpeechLinks and SpeechDocs Filler software. SpeechLinks lets the user create voice macros that can make NaturallySpeaking dictation easier and also use voice dictation with other software that recognizes routines written in VBA (Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications programming language.) SpeechDocs Filler, if we understand it, lets the user create and use templates which can be completed with voice dictation, and simple data structures that can be queried under voice control, thus automating routine correspondence and other forms of data entry. We didn’t spend a lot of time with either program but suspect that most lawyers would find a system utilizing output from these program very useful, but would probably not be up to programming these systems without a considerable amount of help. Of course, keyboard driven macros to perform similar shortcuts, and would make ordinary data entry use of the computer easier, without voice recognition. More useful than the manuals, themselves, are the several laminated reference cards that provide the voice commands and other information useful both for the very beginner and casual user. The online help system also provides a wide variety of useful, sometimes necessary information. The developer offers 30 days of unlimited service calls, during the usual business hours. This is undoubtedly sufficient to permit a user to setup the program, but anyone serious about utilizing the features of the bundled add-ons might well think about purchasing an additional support package. The program can work with a variety of word processor programs, as it comes out of the package, but the CD includes a limited featured word processor of its own. THE MICROPHONE AND THE LAWYER SHOULD BE FRIENDS The first speech recognition programs that we used demanded that we speak one word at a time; modern speech recognition programs consider context to determine the correct word. Humans can choose between “for”, “four” and “fore” and so can NaturallySpeaking. (Actually, that’s not quite true: the program can record “Two plus two are four” and “I had a sandwich for lunch”, but cannot properly recognize “The golfer drove the ball then shouted ‘Fore!’, at least as the program comes out of the box. NaturallySpeaking hears silence as the end of a phrase, thus won’t associate two words together if a long pause intervenes. (NS also considers a comma or period to end a phrase and counts the next word as the beginning of a new phrase.) The program works very well if you are dictating familiar phrases from your own memory; the program doesn’t work quite as well when you pause in the middle of a thought, to choose the exactly correct word. We began by dictating long sentences, even reading from a prepared text; the NaturallySpeaking output was not perfect but there were few corrections necessary. When we wished to correct something, we told NaturallySpeaking to go to the offending word — the command “Select necessary” would bring us to the first instance of the word “necessary” in the file. At that point we could say “Scratch necessary”, a command to delete the word “necessary,” and then dictate the correct word. But if we wished NaturallySpeaking to “learn” the correct word and how to use it, we could, instead issue a “Spell” command and spell out the word, letter by letter, then choose the spelled word instead of the selected word. In essence, this adds the spelled word to the NaturallySpeaking dictionary where it will be available next time. The NaturallySpeaking documentation claims that the more one uses the program, the easier and more accurate dictation becomes. Our experience shows that to be true, at least at the beginning. We’re not certain whether we were getting better with our dictation and ease with the microphone, or whether the program was, in fact, becoming a better listener. Although we were using a 500 MHz computer with more than 300 MBb of memory, recognition was sometimes so slow that we had to wait 30 seconds or more after we finished dictating a sentence before we could see it on the screen. Of course, if you are at a level where output is reasonably accurate, you can continue to dictate while NaturallySpeaking is thinking. LEGAL EDITION We’re told that the difference between the Professional Series Legal Edition and the Professional Series regular (nonlegal) edition — other than the $300 price difference — is the availability of a legal vocabulary that can be incorporated into the program. Presumably, the legal vocabulary includes words that lawyers tend to use. We couldn’t get a list of the words in the legal vocabulary and not in the regular (nonlegal) vocabulary, but a med-mal litigator uses a language that differs from that of a tax lawyer or a patent lawyer. The NaturallySpeaking Legal Edition doesn’t make such distinctions. We were surprised to find that the general US vocabulary worked better for us on the legal material we were using, than the Legal vocabulary. From our experience, we’d opt for the less expensive version. CONSIDERATIONS We know many lawyers who don’t like to type, and some who are physically unable to do so. For those, a good microphone and NaturallySpeaking may be a good solution. Add-ons permit a user to speak commands to use programs other than word processors. We are a little concerned about the unstable financial condition of the parent Lernout & Hauspie, particularly as the company has already sold US marketing rights to its less expensive programs to Broderbund, which is apparently now owned by The Learning Company, who has just announced the change of its name to Broderbund. (OK! We’re a little confused, too.) Vendor financial problems don’t mean anything if the program works for you; but if your firm demands vendor customer support and you plan to use the add-ons to extend the capability of NaturallySpeaking, don’t necessarily count on help from L&H. SUMMARY The latest Dragon NaturallySpeaking is an improvement, but still isn’t good enough that we’d be interested in using it for computer data entry at least for as long as we are able to use a keyboard. DETAILS Dragon NaturallySpeaking Legal Solutions, Version 5. Price: $995.00. Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional Solutions, Version 5, $695. Upgrades from earlier versions at reduced prices. Requires IBM PC or compatible running Pentium processor running at 266 MHz or better, Microsoft Windows 98/2000/Millennium Edition, 128 MB of memory, 195 MB free hard disk and certified microphone / sound board. Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products, USA, Inc. 52 Third Avenue, Burlington, MA 01803, Phone: (800) 380-1234 or (781) 203-5000. Fax: (781) 238-0986. Web: www.lhsl.com.

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