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How to Use Windows Vista Speech Recognition

How to Use Windows Vista Speech Recognition
How to Use Windows Vista Speech Recognition

    Voice recognition software has been around for a long time, but it’s only in the last few years that it has become accurate enough and simple enough to use with any regularity. It has also been rather expensive, with “basic” versions running around $80-100 and “premium” versions running to several hundred dollars – prompting many buyers to ask what was missing from the lower-priced versions.

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    If you have Windows Vista, though, you might be surprised to find that voice recognition is built in – and that it’s pretty good. While it takes some getting used to, with a little practice you’ll soon be able to use speech recognition to create and edit documents as well as to control most of the functions of your computer.

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    Before you can begin using speech recognition, you’ll need to spend about an hour setting it up. This involves detecting your headset or microphone, running through a tutorial, and training the software to recognize your speech patterns. To get started, complete these steps:

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    1. Open the Control Panel and double-click “Speech Recognition Options”. This opens the speech recognition panel, with commands for starting speech recognition, configuring your microphone, running the tutorial, training the software, and opening the speech reference card which will help you learn the commands.
    2. Double-click “Set up microphone”. Follow the instructions to make sure your microphone is working with your system. Note: although in theory you can use any microphone, standard microphones that plug into your sound card tend not to have good enough sound quality for speech recognition. Instead, you should look for a microphone or headset that plugs into your USB port. I use a basic Logitech model that cost about $40.00.
    3. Return to the Speech Recognition Options panel and double-click “Start Speech Recognition”. The first time you start speech recognition, it will run through the beginning setup and tutorial. The first tutorial lasts about 30 minutes and will teach you the commands you need to use with speech recognition while also training the software to recognize your voice. It helps to keep in mind when the tutorial becomes frustratingly repetitive, that it is also learning your vocal patterns.
    4. From the “Speech Recognition Options”, select “Train your computer to better understand you.” You’ll then be asked to read a rather lengthy text in one of several styles. This allows the computer to add to its database of vocal samples, improving recognition and reducing errors.
    5. When asked, have the program scan your “Documents” folder. Speech Recognition will add the words you commonly use to its database, and when it isn’t sure what word you meant it will recommend words to you based on how often you use words in your writing.

    It’s probably best if you find a quiet, secluded area to run through the set-up. First of all, you want your voice and only your voice to register when you’re training the software. More importantly, people will give you all sorts of crazy looks when they see you talking gibberish to your computer.

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    Once you’re set up, you can begin to enjoy the wonders of modern speech recognition. When you ran the tutorial, you learned how to do most basic tasks, so I won’t revisit those, but here are a few general tips:

    • Use speech recognition in a quiet place. If your microphone is any good at all, it will pick up all the stray noises in your vicinity and attempt to transcribe them. For some reason, my PC interprets every random sound as the word “if”.
    • Turn speech recognition off when you’re thinking. You say “stop listening” to put speech recognition into “sleep” mode; it awakes when you say “start listening”. For some reason, having it waiting and ready to transcribe when I’m thinking makes me feel rushed and nervous and I end up not being able to concentrate; turning off speech recognition is a way of acknowledging to myself that I can think things through as long as I need to. Plus, leaving it on is just inviting a string of random gibberish as the program transcribes the noise you make moving around, working, and even breathing.
    • Speak strongly and clearly. It helps to pretend you’re giving a speech. Use your best “Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address” voice.
    • “Spell it”. When you introduce a new word to the software’s vocabulary, or when you use a word that sounds like a lot of other words, the program is liable to screw up. Just say “spell it’ and spell the word out, slowly and precisely.
    • Retrain from time to time. As you get better at this (and it does take a while) you’ll change the way you talk — you’ll learn to speak more clearly, and you’ll become more confident thinking “on the fly”. Every once in a while, run through the tutorial and voice training, and have it scan your documents to pick up any new words. This has the added benefit of reminding you of things you’ve forgotten you could do.
    • Be patient. Don’t get too discouraged when you get a lot of errors on your first (and second, and third) try. You will get better at this with practice.

    There are good reasons to use speech recognition beside physical impairment that makes typing difficult or impossible. Using it well requires a level of vocal control and clarity that we don’t often practice, which helps to improve your speaking ability. It also helps learn to think on your feet — you’ll be surprised at how hard it is at first to compose meaningful sentences while speaking! It’s also a good way to move from a written draft to a typed draft; speaking your sentences aloud helps to catch awkward, unnatural phrasings that the eye tends to skip over. It’s also a good way to transcribe voice notes if you’re the kind of person that uses a digital recorder to take reminders over the course of the day.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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