I tried Mac Dictation this week. My goal was to get a few simple sentences to appear in a text editor. Initial experiments were not successful. The full sentences I attempted were garbled beyond recognition when they appeared on-screen, so I fell back to word-by-word communication.”Make.” Made. “Maaaaaake….” Mate. No. Try again. “Maaaaaake….” Made. No. “Create….” Create. Aha. Victory is mine! “An.” In.
I progressed word by word, slowly and carefully, and my text editor dutifully showed the words on the screen with numerous errors. This was not production-ready. No one wants to talk as if they’re scolding a recalcitrant pet.
To be clear, I’m not a marble-mouthed mumbler. I’ve recorded books on tape for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (now Learning Ally), and I know I can enunciate well. But Dictation couldn’t understand my voice.
I knew that if I couldn’t get text to appear on-screen, I couldn’t complete my project. I’ve started coding the next part and it’s feasible, so I really want this to work!
So, I Googled for my options:
1.) Try to improve Dictation’s performance by improving my computer setup;
2.) Buy Dragon Dictate and hope it runs on my underpowered 2011 MacBook Air and has better accuracy than Dictation.
3.) Abandon OS X entirely and do the project in a Windows virtual machine with Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows.
4.) Try using OpenEars to build an iOS app that does the same thing.
Only the first two options really get me to my initial goal; the last two are pivots that require adapting to different platforms and approaches.
So, tomorrow I’m buying a USB headset to eliminate ambient noise and provide a clearer dictation experience. I really hope this improves Mac Dictation’s performance by leaps and bounds. If it does, I’ll be off to the races. If it doesn’t, I’ll be installing Dragon Dictate on a machine not made to handle it.
I’m heartened by the discovery that once I get the text on the screen, my goals can be accomplished. I’m discouraged by how difficult it is to actually get the text on the screen. But discouraged does not mean “gave up.” It means I’m thinking hard about the options.