Speech Recognition You Can Count On–For Under $250

Speech recognition has been positioned as the holy grail of computing for decades, but many people have found the off-the-shelf software solutions too prone to inaccuracies. That’s really changed with some of the newer products, though, and I’m now regularly using a digital voice recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking software to do very accurate transcriptions of interviews and even television and radio segments, videocast segments and podcasts. If you spend a fair amount of time writing—even just writing e-mails—it’s worth looking into how accurate speech recognition is now.
I’ve always found the Dragon Naturally Speaking software products to produce the most accurate transcriptions, although ViaVoice is good too, and comes in a nice version for Mac OS X. The good news is that you can now buy very good digital voice recorders that come bundled with the Dragon software, making transcriptions of, say, interviews as easy as hitting Record and then sending your audio directly to text in a word processor. In this post, I’ll discuss some inexpensive, good ways to do this.

My favorite of the digital voice recorder and Dragon bundles is the Sony CD-MX20VTP Handheld Digital Voice Recorder which has a five-star rating at Shopping.com. It has 32MB of flash memory, and you can use Memory Sticks for essentially infinite capacity. You can store your recorded files in over 300 folders, and Dragon Naturally Speaking software is bundled. I found the bundle on Shopping.com for under $250. You can get well above 90 percent accuracy with this recorder and the software, and well above 95 percent accuracy if the software is recognizing just your own voice.

For a cheaper solution, you can get a Naturally Speaking Mobile 5.0 Upgrade version of the Dragon software that comes bundled with a digital voice recorder. The recorder is not as good as the Sony one, but you can get this bundle for around $200, and you can try it during a free-trial period if you like.

I have a few tips that can help you boost the accuracy of your transcriptions. First, it’s hugely important to train the software to recognize your own speech. Follow the instructions to do so, and spend at minimum an hour doing the training. When dictating, speak at a natural pace, not too quickly. Also, a good computer with a fast processor and a healthy amount of memory will boost accuracy.
I have yet to find the speech recognition solution that makes no mistakes, but I have found these solutions to work well enough that I can watch as a transcription progresses in my word processor, take notes as I notice mistakes, and then quickly go back at the end to make corrections. This is vastly faster and less annoying than typing transcriptions.
Do you have any good tips on speech recognition?