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Use Voice Recognition

How To Set Up And Customise The Speech-Recognition Feature On Your Operating System.

 

If you are a slow typist, or have difficulty or discomfort when using a keyboard, software that allows you to enter text and interact with your computer by talking to it might help. Some people who have difficulty with words – with conditions such as dyslexia – can also find it helpful. These guides explain how to run and customise the voice-recognition feature of your operating system (Windows or Mac ) to better suit your needs. There are also third-party software applications available.

Here’s how to do this…

  • Run voice recognition on your computer

Set up the speech-recognition feature on your operating system and customise it to suit your needs.

  1. Windows 7
  2. Mac OS X

How To Use Voice Recognition In Windows 7

This page explains step-by-step how to set up and use Speech Recognition, the built-in voice-recognition function in Windows 7. This is an excellent introduction to the use of voice recognition for both dictation and hands-free control of a computer. However, it lacks some of the advanced functionality and integration that commercial software can offer.

Areas in this guide:

  • Set up Speech Recognition
  • Third-party voice-recognition software

Note: The ‘Ease of Access Center’ has replaced ‘Accessibility Options’ (which was used in earlier versions of Windows) in the ‘Control Panel’ of Windows 7.

Set up Speech Recognition

Step 1: Turn on Speech Recognition

Open the ‘Speech Recognition’ window by clicking the ‘Start‘ button, followed by ‘Control Panel‘, then ‘Ease of Access‘, then ‘Speech Recognition‘, as shown in Fig 1.

Alternatively, open the ‘Ease of Access Center’ window by pressing the Windows key + U. Press Tab until ‘Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard‘ is highlighted and then press Enter. Press Tab until ‘Use Speech Recognition‘ is highlighted and then press Enter.

Fig 1

Click on ‘Start Speech Recognition‘, as shown in Fig 2, or press Alt + S.

Fig 2

Step 2: Set up your microphone

If this is the first time you are running Speech Recognition, you will be prompted to set up your microphone.

To check that your microphone is working, click on ‘Set up microphone‘, as shown in Fig 2, or press Alt + M.

Click the radio button beside the type of microphone you are using, or press Tab until it is highlighted, as shown in Fig 3. Then click the ‘Next‘ button or press Alt + N.

Fig 3

You will then see a screen describing how to adjust your microphone. When you have finished this step, click the ‘Next‘ button or press Alt + N.

Next, you will be asked to read a sentence on your screen. You’ll see a bar showing the volume level move as you speak, as shown in Fig 4. Click the ‘Next‘ button or press Alt + N.

Fig 4

The microphone should now be set up. Click on the ‘Finish‘ button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Step 3: Train your computer to recognise your voice

You can now start dictating. However, the recognition will not be accurate as the computer has not yet ‘learned’ your voice. It’s recommended that you train your computer to do this. The first training unit takes 5 minutes, and you can take further training units if you want.

In the ‘Speech Recognition’ window (shown in Fig 2), click on ‘Train your computer to better understand you‘, or press Alt + R.

Read the text on the welcome screen, then click the ‘Next‘ button or press Alt + N. Then read the training text.

You can continue by clicking on ‘More Training‘, or press Alt + M.

When you want to end the session, click on ‘Finish‘ or press Alt + F.

After you have done this the computer should recognise your voice.

Step 4: Customise Speech Recognition further

In the left-hand pane of the ‘Speech Recognition’ window, click on ‘Text to Speech‘, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

If it is not already selected, click on the ‘Speech Recognition‘ tab as shown in Fig 5, or press Tab until any of the tabs is highlighted and then use the arrow keys to select the ‘Speech Recognition‘ tab.

Fig 5

In the box below the ‘Recognition Profiles’ header, you can select your own user voice profile, which is useful if the computer is used by different people. (Note that in the example shown in Fig 5, only one profile has been set up).

You can further customise Speech Recognition by ticking the boxes below the ‘User Settings’ header.

Tick the box next to ‘Run Speech Recognition at startup‘ by clicking on it, or press Alt + R to tick it.

Tick the box next to ‘Review documents and mail to improve accuracy‘ by clicking on it, or press Alt + O to tick it.

For users who cannot start Speech Recognition with the keyboard, mouse or other input device, tick the box next to ‘Enable voice activation‘.

You can also fine tune the microphone from this window.

When you are finished, click the ‘OK‘ button or press Tab until it is highlighted and the press Enter.

Step 5: See the list of speech commands

In the ‘Speech Recognition’ window (shown in Fig 2), click on ‘Open the Speech Reference Card‘, or press Alt + C, for a list of speech commands.

Third-party voice-recognition software

Although there is voice-recognition software built into Windows 7, there are also widely used packages for sale that offer excellent accuracy and even complete ‘hands-free’ use. For example, Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking (for information, see the software producer’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking webpage) and, formerly, IBM’s ViaVoice (no longer supported).

These, and similar software packages, can be very powerful options for people who are not able to use a physical keyboard or mouse, or who just want to speed up their text input. The systems take time to ‘train’ to recognise the speaker, but with practice it is possible to input text faster than the fastest typist.



How To Use Voice Recognition In Mac OS X

This page explains step-by-step how to set up and use Speakable Items, the built-in voice-recognition function in Mac OS X. This provides voice recognition for hands-free control of a computer. However, it is not for speech dictation and lacks the advanced functionality and integration that commercial software can offer.

Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure ‘Full keyboard access’ is turned on – you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.

Step 1: Open the ‘Speech’ window

Make sure you are in ‘Finder’. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to ‘Finder’.

Click on the ‘Apple‘ icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on ‘System Preferences‘, as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1

In the ‘System Preferences’ window (shown in Fig 2), click on the ‘Speech‘ icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the ‘Speech‘ icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2

Step 2: Turn on and use Speakable Items

In the ‘Speech’ window, make sure the ‘Speech Recognition‘ tab is selected, as shown in Fig 3. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Fig 3

Click the ‘On‘ radio button next to ‘Speakable Items‘, or press Tab to highlight the ‘Off’ radio button and then press the left arrow key to switch Speakable Items on. This will open the Speakable Items window, which looks like a round microphone (shown in Fig 4).

By default, you need to press and hold the Esc key while speaking. However, you can change this by clicking on the ‘Change Key‘ button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press the Spacebar. If you’d rather not use the keyboard, select the radio button beside ‘Listen continuously with keyword‘ and change the settings below to customise this feature.

Speakable Items can recognise a number of commands, which are listed in the ‘Speakable Items’ folder. To look at them, click on the bottom of the small, round Speakable Items window, as shown in Fig 4, and select ‘Open Speech Commands window‘ from the drop-down menu.

Fig 4

When you are happy with your settings click the red close button at the top of the ‘Speech’ window, or press Apple + W to close the window and return to the desktop.


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