Escape Velocity (or By Jove, I think she’s got it!)

This is a verbatim transcript by Dragon naturally speaking of a recording made in my Jeep using my new improved equipment, on Olympus voice recorder and a center Heimer cardioid noise canceling microphone. I recording as I drive, and I am speaking all my punctuation, just as expected by Dragon. You should not hear the punctuation, of course, if Dragon interprets it properly. Sometimes, however Dragon gets confused in this set up, particularly it seems by!

I just create just spoke the command to adding another line to the text so this should be on that other line. That command consists of the word new, followed by the word line, so I must avoid saying those two words together. Unless of course I want a

currently, I am traveling down a city street at 40 miles per hour. Don’t worry, the speed limit is 45, I am well within the law here. At the upcoming corner, I’ll turn right, and then turn right again to get onto the highway. Then we will see if the transcription accuracy changes at highway speeds. I expect to see some change, due to higher revving engine, more tire noise on the road, more wind outside, and of course turning up the air conditioner, because it is warm here in Michigan today. The thermometer on my Jeep reads 88°. And now I am up to 65 mph. And now I turn up the cruise control at 70 mph

I am now in what I consider prime dictation mode to: relatively clear roads, on the highway, at cruising speed.

What you missed however, was the car which is tried to run me off the road. So much for relatively clear traffic. I was trying to merge into the center lane, to make room for oncoming traffic entering the highway, while he wanted the center lane said he could step past, because apparently driving fast in the passing lane is just boring for him.

So that is one of the hazards of dictating while driving: driving had better come first!

I have to keep an eye on traffic just as much as ever, perhaps even more. I can’t get complacent as I talk.

Now I’m getting out of the Kentwood/Wyoming area, and into the Byron Center area, where I grew up. Traffics a little heavier these days, as the area has grown a lot, but it’s still not as bad as in the larger suburbs.

I’m still adjusting to the punctuation part, but it’s becoming a habit. Sometimes even an inappropriate habit: I found myself speaking the punctuation when I use voice for sending text messages, for example. And today, when I left voicemail for my sister, I spoke roughly half the punctuation.

Pardon for the delay, which you of course didn’t see, I just had four more cars trying to kill me. So much for lighter traffic!

I find that my speaking the punctuation is a compromise. For that matter, my entire demands for dictation and transcription are a compromise. Many of Dragon’s customers are doctors and lawyers and other professions where the dictation is happening in the office, and perfection is not just desired, but required. They look for an accuracy of 98.5%, and they will pay more for equipment that will get to 98.9%. In those fields, I entirely understand. A mistake can be costly, or even dangerous.

But I’m an author. Not even the nonfiction author, a fiction author. The most that a mistake can cost me is a sale. And that will never happen, because for me this is only a first draft: clay to be molded as needed after that. Now I am by nature an author with who writes as few drafts as possible, as close to one as I can get. Two is pretty common for me. So I would like the transcription to be good, but I still expect follow-up and clean it up.

So one of the compromises I make in my dictation is that I do not speak those curly things that you put around words that are spoken by somebody to indicate which words are spoken and which are not. You know what they are, but I cannot say the name, or Dragon will put them into the text instead of the words. The first word is quotation, and the second word is marks. I feel that I can put those in during cleanup just fine.

I also do not fret or linebreaks in the wrong place, or missing completely. Again, that’s for cleanup. It’s good if they’re right, it’s not a tragedy if they’re wrong. I can even do without that small curly bit of punctuation that appears as at pauses within a sentence. I do say them, but I don’t fret if I missed them. But I find the punctuation that indicates up and of a sentence is a lot more important, and I try not to miss those. Sometimes, in the heat of a scene, I’ll forget. But mostly, I make sure to say them. Otherwise, this can become a very long run-on sentence, which makes it hard for me and I suspect hard for Dragon.

So let me discuss the equipment that I have selected, and why selected it. First, I bought a $75 Olympus voice recorder. I am happy with it, but it was forced upon me. The latest upgrade to the software on my Windows phone is broken, and no one between the phone manufacturer and Microsoft immobile shows any interest in fixing it. It will no longer launch application through voice command. That means in order to record with it, I have to pull out my phone, look at the screen, and tap a button. This is unacceptable. I have come to the conclusion that what I really need is not hands free operation, but that is ideal. But what I need is eyes free operation. Having to touch a button is no more distracting than taking my hand off the wheel to activate a turn signal. As long as the contact is short, it is not a distraction but while touching the turn signal, or a button, my eyes can stay on the road. But with the latest version of the phone software, I must look at the device to start a recording. On acceptable

so I got the Olympus voice recorder site would have eyes free operation. Yes, I have to tap a button, but I can feel the but. It’s an actual physical button, not a spot on the phone screen. And more, as I have experimented, I can tamp it right through my shirt pocket. So I do not have to pull the recorder out at all. I simply have to have it powered up in my pocket, ready to record, and then I tap the button. I can tap another button, also felt through the shirt, to stop recording. And the recorder chirps when it starts, so I don’t have to look to tell that it’s working.

Two other features about the recorder that I find useful are that the batteries are rechargeable and will recharge once plugged into the computer which is the other nice feature unlike some recorders I’ve tried in the past, it does not have a USB cord, it just has a USB plug that extends out from the base when you push a button. And I can plug it directly into the computer, which sees it as a external drive, and I can copy files. In the meantime, I can charge the batteries.

There are other features of the recorder which I am still exploring. It has a file system consisting of five folders, so that I could potentially record into different folders for different projects. I’m not using that yet, but the feature is there. I can review and playback, including fast-forward and reverse operations. And I can also choose different scenes, as they call it what you might think of its operating modes. The idea is that the recorder has different options such as a low-cut filter, noise sensitivity, other things which can change manually to affect the recording characteristics. But to understand those, you need more skill in audio engineering than I have. The concept of scenes simplifies this. There is a seem for recording a meeting. There is another for recording a phone call. And there are scenes for close-up operations, transferring sound from another device, and most important for me, one for dictation and one specifically for dictation for transcription software. And while they try not to be obvious about it, the icon for that last seen includes letters D and ask: Dragon naturally speaking. They know how this is going to be used.

The other piece of new equipment is my 10 Heimer cardioid dual air microphone. Let’s start with the simple term: dual ear. This does not mean, as my friend Bill thought it might, that it consists of dual headphones which would of course be illegal to wear while driving. Rather, it is that the unit has two earpieces not for inside the ear but for over the ear to hold it in place. Unlike some other units on the market, this is only a microphone, not headphones, but it still involves your ears. For those of us who wear glasses, this means that you have two things over the tops of your ears. Or in my case in my right ear three things, since that’s where my Bluetooth unit for my cell phone is. They warned that this could be uncomfortable, but frankly, after one day of use, I’m starting to get used to it already. So two hooks hanging over your ears, and a metal headband runs behind your head between them. On your left cheek is a small sheet phone pad they call it although on the left side it’s barely more than a rubber sleeve over the metal of the ear piece are the ear grip. On the right is a real cheek pad a piece of plastic about the size of a a nickel. The tension on the band holds these two pads against her cheekbones. This keeps the microphone firmly in place. Then extending out from the right pad is a small boom, with the microphone at the end. The microphone is a cardioid style, which describes its sensitivity. In the diagrams that come with literature it shows a sensitivity curve which looks heart-shaped hence cardioid. The highest sensitivity is at the point which is pointing towards your mouth, and the lowest is on the other side, pointed away from you. This means that sound in one direction is amplified sound in the opposite direction is suppressed, and sound perpendicular to those is relatively suppressed.

Of course, this can take some adjustment. If you don’t get it pointed in the right direction, it will be your voice that’s reduced, not the noise.

Well, I am almost to my destination, so I will have to put an end to this recording now. But I wanted to give a raw, unedited transcript, so you can see the results of Dragon NaturallySpeaking in a relatively difficult environment, i.e., a noisy Jeep, but with better equipment. I am finding this usable, if not perfect, and I think it’s going to make me a lot more productive. And I hope this helps you get more productive too!


Everything above this line is a verbatim transcription. Is it perfect? Of course not! But it’s not bad. I know people whose first drafts are rougher than that. (Not me. I’m a pretty clean typist. But still… Not bad…)

This is what I’ve been working toward. This is what I’ve been calling Escape Velocity: when I can write at the speed of dictation and transcription, without having to wait to budget money for the transcription phase. Metaphorically, it’s like the Heinlein quote: “Once you reach orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere.”

My productivity is about to go way up.


Technical Specs

Microphone: Sennheiser ME 3-II KB Headset Microphone. A superior noise-canceling microphone, and the last piece in my quest for Escape Velocity.

Voice Recorder: Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-853. A decent, full-featured voice recorder for the price. I like the fact that the USB connector is built in. This makes much cleaner recordings than my phone does; but still not enough for Dragon in my Jeep.

Transcription Software: Dragon Premium 13.0, English. Version 15 is out. It supposedly needs no training. That means 13 is reduced to half price, and I didn’t mind training it. Notice that I needed the Premium edition, not the much-less-expensive Home edition, because Home requires you to be at your computer as you dictate. With Premium, you can dictate into a recorder and transcribelater.

Recording Studio: 2010 Jeep Liberty.

The Aldrin Express
The Aldrin Express

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