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Re: XyWrite and voice recognition

Unlike others on this list, my experience with IBM Via Voice has been
good, though admittedly I don't use it for "precise" writing.

After spending about 90 minutes "training" Via Voice out of the box, and
then during the first few weeks conscientiously correcting this or that
word it got wrong, and adding some personalized vocabulary by having the
"vocabular expander" program read some 15,000 words of text I had
written for various other purposes (a couple of magazine articles, a
couple of book chapters, a month's worth of email and some pages of
casual journal writing), the darn thing works amazingly well. Not
perfectly by any means -- I could never simply "talk" a letter or memo
and send it out without corrections -- but entirely well enough for my
"internal" purposes.

Those purposes are primarily three. First, I use it to transcribe
interviews, formerly one of the most tedious aspects of my job as a
journalist. Through headphones I listen to the tape of an interview I
conducted (or notes to myself spoken into a standard tape recorder) and
repeat into the ViaVoice microphone whatever I deem worth keeping, as
the tape is running, like a simultaneous translator at the UN. It took
a little time to master this skill, but not too long, actually, and now,
compared to typing out a transcript the old way, I get the job done a
little faster (20 percent or so?) but with a LOT less headache and
energy expended.

Second, I strap on the microphone when reviewing pages of my
handwritten notes. By speaking, I create a selective, condensed,
neatly-typed version of the notes (complete with more the important
quotes and ideas in bold, italics or all caps) that then becomes my
primary reference when writing the actual story.

Third, in the early stages of writing an article, I sometimes lean back
in my chair, close my eyes and talk out a first approximation of what I
want to say. I find that the act of talking, as if to a friend, is a
good way to get things clear in my mind. Phrases pop out, ideas
coalesce, a casual tone is struck, etc. I seldom use much of this stuff
as is, but at least it's there to review.

As for the inevitable inaccuracies, they don't matter, since the
resulting text is for my own use, not publication, and I can easily
enough figure out what I was trying to say.

For convenience sake, I do most of this in the "SpeakPad" word processor
that comes with ViaVoice, but it's easy enough to lift out anything I
need (most often direct quotes) and transport it into XyW-DOS using the
Windows cut and paste convention.

I found that adding 32MB of RAM (for a total of 64MB) to my 200 Mhz
Pentium system helped a lot (and only cost $39); Via Voice uses a lot
of computation. The quality of the microphone is important, too.

A side benefit of all this talking, by the way, according to my wife, is
that I don't say "uh...uh...uh" nearly as much at dinner parties.

Sorry to go on so long, but I thought people might want to hear of a
good experience with VR.