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Voice Recognition Software: Comparison And Recommendations

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Voice Recognition Software: Comparison and Recommendations

Use of voice recognition software is under consideration by medical

office administrators nationally. Administrators have long searched

for alternatives to the expense, error rate, and record-completion

delays associated with conventional transcription. It is no wonder

that, with the recent advances in voice recognition software, medical

transciptionists are looking at this emerging technology as a powerful

way of accomplishing essential record-keeping tasks.

This report investigates four of the leading voice recognition

applications to determine whether this technology has become a

practical option and to determine which application is the best

choice. And so that this report and further study of the software can

be better understood, an introduction to the subject of voice

recognition software follows.

Introduction to Voice Recognition Technology

Several different voice recognition products currently exist in the

marketplace, and viable choices are greater in number than they were

only a few years ago. Rapid changes have been fueled by the

ever-increasing power and plummeting prices of desktop systems. Though

room for improvement still exists, accuracy has advanced tremendously

in a stunningly short time.

Brief history. The first software-only dictation product for PC's,

Dragon Systems' DragonDictate for Windows 1.0, using discrete speech

recognition technology, was released in 1994. Discrete speech is a

slow, unnatural means of dictation, requiring a pause after each and

every word [11]. Two years later, IBM introduced the first continuous

speech recognition software, its MedSpeak/Radiology. These systems

often had five-figure price tags and required very expensive PCs.

Continuous speech technology allows its users to speak naturally and

conversationally, relieving much of the tedium of discrete speech

dictation [11].

Dragon Systems made an enormous stride in June, 1997, when it released

NaturallySpeaking, the first general-purpose continuous speech

software program. Much more affordable than earlier programs, it

brought the realm of continuous speech recognition to a much wider

range of users. Two months later, IBM released its competing

continuous speech software, ViaVoice [10].

Stringent demands. Much is demanded of speech recognition programs.

Accuracy is critical, and speed is essential to any effective program.

Added to these challenges are the enormous variance that exists among

individual human speech patterns, pitch, rate, and inflection. These

variations are an extraordinary test of the flexibility of any

program. Voice recognition follows these steps:

Spoken words enter a microphone.

Audio is processed by the computer's sound card.

The software discriminates between lower-frequency vowels and

higher-frequency consonants and compares the results with phonemes,

the smallest building blocks of speech. The software then compares

results to groups of phonemes, and then to actual words, determining

the most likely match.

Contextual information is simultaneously processed in order to more

accurately predict words that are most likely to be used next, such as

the correct choice out of a selection of homonyms such as merry,

marry, and Mary.

Selected words are arranged in the most probable sentence combinations.

The sentence is transferred to a word processing application [11].

Power devourers. With all of the complex selections and tremendous

flexibility demanded of voice recognition software, it is small wonder

that considerable computer muscle is required to run these programs.

To take fullest advantage of current speech recognition programs, a PC

with a minimum of a 300 MHz Pentium II processor is recommended. A

separate 16-bit SoundBlaster-compatible card is also advisable,

because the sound cards that are bundled as part of a PC's motherboard

can produce inferior results with voice recognition software [4].

Realistic reminders. The technology has advanced impressively over the

last year, with programs variously offering smarter speech recognition

engines, larger active vocabularies, integration with the most popular

word-processing programs, and improved accuracy. This report sorts

through these to find the most accurate program and the best value




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