Streaming Voice Dictation in iOS 8

Apple announced streaming voice dictation in Siri, which shows you your words as you speak them, at WWDC. This feature has existed on Android for awhile and it is something I'd very much like to see on iOS. However, Apple was mum on adding the feature beyond Siri to normal voice dictation. If they've got the ability to do it in Siri, why not everywhere else too? As confirmed by 9to5 Mac, you can now stream dictation anywhere on iOS. This is a big deal for dictators, such as myself. iOS 8 just keeps getting better and better. 


Macworld Agrees: Dragon Dictate 4 is Better

Today Kirk McElhearn weighed in for Macworld on the new Dragon Dictate. It's better. I thought version 3 was pretty good and yet version 4 is noticeably better. I've received some email from readers following my initial thoughts on Dragon Dictate 4 on two subjects.

First, I'm asked if the UI is in parity with the Windows version. It's not. The gap gets narrower with each successive release but most things (particularly voice corrections) just seem smoother on the PC version. For me, however, the ability to run it on my Mac trumps any difference.

The other subject I'm hearing about from readers is how they had such a hellish time getting their upgrade or experiencing some other hijinks with their purchase. I heard this from several people. It sounds like in most cases it eventually got sorted out but took much longer than it should have. That's no excuse and Nuance needs to get better at dealing with individual consumers. All I can say in this regard is stick it out if you want the best possible voice recognition on the Mac. Dragon's it.

Dragon Dictate, Version 4 - A Worthy Upgrade


This week, Nuance released version 4 of Dragon Dictate for the Mac. I remember the days when dictation software on the Mac couldn't hold a candle to that on the PC. We had applications like MacSpeech, which tried their best, but never could keep up with Dragon Dictate on the PC. When MacSpeech started licensing the Dragon Dictate engine, things turned around for us. When, a few years later, Nuance purchased MacSpeech and folded it into the Dragon Dictate line of software, things got even better.

Nevertheless, over the last few years, Dragon Dictate for the Mac has still been catching up to its well established and mature cousin on the PC. This newest version of Dragon Dictate for the Mac continues to close the gap. I've only been using it now for a few days but the recognition is noticeably better than version 3. Nuance explains that with this new version you can get up to 99% accuracy. For giggles, I dictated the passage I used in this MacWorld article where I tested Mavericks dictation and Dragon Dictate 3. Dragon Dictate 4 did better than version 3. Version 3 had nine errors. Version 4 had three. That is the most important take away from this new version of Dragon Dictate. It is more accurate.

The new version is now a 64-bit application with improved memory management and it is also faster. I dictate in the Dragon Notepad often but just as often I'll dictate in Byword or Apple Mail. The application is definitely faster in these other apps than it used to be. 

While version 3 had the ability to transcribe recorded words, the new version has more powerful transcription tools. You can now create transcription-only profiles that understand they are transcribing based on a recorded source rather than a live source. When you set up these transcription profiles, it will require a 90 second audio clip to create a profile for the speaker. Now you can sit in a room, or a college lecture hall, and just run a recording. Dragon Dictate then has the ability to transcribe that recording into words. This only works with one speaker. 

Dragon Dictate also still has the command mode where you can drive your Mac with your voice. You can open windows, activate applications, and – with version 4 — control Gmail in your web browser.

My big take away from Dragon Dictate version 4 is that it is both faster and more accurate than its prior version. This alone makes it worth the upgrade. Nuance has taken Dragon Dictate for the Mac far enough that I've stopped using Dragon Dictate on the PC at work. If you're already a version 3 user, you should upgrade. If you haven't tried Dragon Dictate yet and you're serious about getting your words into text quickly, now may be the time.

Like many things that get posted here, I am writing this by dictating to my Mac. To run Dragon Dictate you're going to need an Intel Mac with Mountain Lion or better, 3 GB of free space on your hard drive and at least 4 GB of RAM (but they recommend 8 GB).

My Sony Dictation Recorder

I once mentioned on a MPU episode that I use a small digital recorder with Dragon Dictate. Since then I've had a lot people asking which recorder I use. It's this one (Amazon Affiliate Link). I picked this up at an office supply store and didn't do a lot of comparison shopping. There are a few things I really like about it though. The USB port folds into the device so I don't need to find a cord when I want to download. The battery life is great and it is light in my pocket (plastic). It saves audio files to MP3, and my voice sounds great even when I record while walking down the street. 

Why don't I just record onto the iPhone? The physical buttons make a real difference for me. I start and stop between just about every sentence. I also can turn it on and record virtually anywhere without looking at it. As an example, I'll often take a walk after eating my lunch and record into the Sony for later transcription. It's also great for diary entries.

Voice Dream for Instapaper and Pocket Text to Speech

On the heels of our recent Read it Later show, I received an email from listener David Ianni concerning an app I’d never heard of before, Voic Dream ($10). If you’ve ever wanted to have your iPhone read out loud entries from your Instapaper or Pocket lists, Voice Dream is exactly what you’re looking for. It grabs any selected article and reads it to you out loud. I’ve always got more stuff I want to read than time to read it. I’ve also got a 30 minute commute each way every day. Using Voice Dream, I’ve started listening to the long form articles that I feel like I never have time to read. It comes with an American female voice but if that doesn’t float your boat, you can buy a variety of other male and female voices for three dollars each. I bought Rachel, a British female voice, because that’s just how I roll. Voice Dream can also read from your Evernote and even Dropbox folders. There is a crippled free version if you want to see how it works before buying.

In addition to reading you the words, it also displays them. I could see this being useful for someone trying to learn English as a second language. You can also set the reading speed. I've got mine set to 80 words per minute and it works just fine. Voice Dream is one of those apps that I’ve always wanted but never really articulated. It solves a problem in my life and it may for you too.


Dragon Voice Dictation on iPhone

I am a big fan of the voice recognition software. I use Nuance's Dragon Dictate on the PC and MacSpeech Dictate on my Mac. I was very pleased to see that Nuance, the developer of the Dragon engine, has released a Dragon Dictate iPhone app. For now, at least, it is free. I immediately downloaded and tried it out. Indeed, this post was written using it.

With no training whatsoever, the application immediately began recognizing my speech. This application does not perform the speech recognition on your iPhone but instead sends the voice file to the Dragon servers which do the heavy lifting and then send it back. It is all rather seamless. However, in order to work, you must be on a wi-fi or internet connection.

The only frustration is that it only works in short bursts. After two or three sentences, it will stop, send the voice file to the Nuance servers, processes your blurb, then be available for you to resume dictation. It also doesn't like swear words, as discovered by Andy Ihnatko.

If you've ever been curious about dictation software, go download it now.