Watch Ma! No Hands!

I think I’m frustrating myself unnecessarily by thinking that on day two I have to have mastered Dragon Dictation’s speech-to-text program. It is something I’ll have to do almost exclusively, ultimately, as my wrists cooperate less and less with the thousands of keystrokes associated with writing and editing, sending emails and processing photographs. I don’t think it will ever become a tool that I use exclusively as someone who is totally disabled would be required to do but over time I’ll need to begin using it more and more frequently to extend the life of my wrists some months or years into the future. There’s never a good time to take time away from writing for wrist surgery but with this software, that’s at least conceivable without me giving up everything I want to say and show through the weblog and in other ways.

So far the process of trying to think my words rather than type them has been very frustrating. After four years of developing a rhythm and relationship between the brain and the fingers (that’s as automatic as the process of reading entire sentences and not single words) the process of having to think through every word that comes next in sequence is very unnatural and awkward. Perhaps over time though this way of thinking about communication will make me a better speaker as well as a better writer. We’ll have to see about that.

This program is not working so well so far to enter data directly in the blogger edit window but works very well using what’s called a dictation box that is the designated text entry program for this software that seems to respond quickly and accurately even after only one day of training. I can pretty well speak as quickly as I want and the program is able to keep up with me.

This will be especially helpful if I can use it to dictate my evaluations and other paperwork from my physical therapy job. Of course I’ll have to train it in all sorts of special terminology but that should only be a matter of time to bring it up to speed.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to use this program to write more creative things. But then I thought the same thing about using the keyboard versus using a yellow legal pad almost 5 years ago when I first began to attempt to say what I felt through my fingertips every morning.

With exception of a few edits, this was all spoken onto the page. Not fancy, not good, but legible and that many fewer keystrokes spent from the limited future reserves of them! Dragon Naturally Stammering may eventually become Naturally Speaking. Right now, it ain’t natural at tall!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Ah, voice recognition software, will it replace the transcriptionist (me)? I saw a demonstration of this once by a radiologist, very neat. He had programmed all the specific radiology terminology into it – and he would also edit any errors that would come up. I imagine most doctors would not take the time.

    Good luck with your new toy, like anything – practice makes perfect!

  2. “Perhaps over time though this way of thinking about communication will make me a better speaker as well as a better writer.”

    I think that is a given! I imagine that the initial use of it is unnerving and hopefully, it will become second nature to you.

  3. fragmented fred- are you a type A personality? just wandering! 🙂 i’m sure it will become second nature, as most things become when we do them over and over. but yah- that would be hard for me, also. i’m not a very good speaker, especially if it’s something i’m passionate about. i tend to stammer and the thoughts don’t come out like i want them to.

  4. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. I know what you mean when you speak about the brain to finger connection; most of the time I find my fingers ahead of my brain!! *S* The post was very well spoken, tho!