Computer Dictation – it works

NY Times columnist David Pogue writes Last March, in this column, I described my fondness for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the dictation software for Windows that lets me “write” at 120 words per minute. You wear a headset microphone, you speak normally (except that you speak the punctuation), and NatSpeak pumps the words into whatever program is frontmost.
Last week, the company (ScanSoft) unveiled its new version 8. The shocking twist: the best feature is improved accuracy. That’s it. Not bells, not whistles, just doing what it’s supposed to do, only 25 percent better. (The company calls it 99 percent accurate, but that’s hard for me to measure; I’ll generally dictate an entire column without a single mis-transcription. For that document, it’s 100 percent.)
I love this idea that the company just spent the last two years doing nothing but trying to improve its software’s core feature. It’s almost hilarious! It’s like a digital-camera company coming out with a new camera that doesn’t have a single new feature, except that it takes much better pictures.
In this case, ScanSoft grew understandably weary of hearing about how people bought NatSpeak, got all excited, tried it, didn’t get the results they hoped for, and then gave up on it. “We got one consistent message, from both users and abandoners,” a product manager told me. “Fix the accuracy.” Turns out they did. NatSpeak 8 really, truly is more accurate, right out of the box.