Monday, September 20, 2010

Speech Recognition on Netbooks

Nothing appeals more to me than a small laptop that will do voice recognition. After all, mounting it on my wheelchair is easier, lifting it up and down is easier and carrying it along is easier. But the smaller the laptop with specs that will do voice recognition, the higher the price.

I suppose that's why I've been curious about pulling off voice recognition on a netbook.

Having said that, necessity forced me into buying a net book this weekend. My One and Only computer and laptop is making odd noises that resemble hard drive issues, so I rolled over to my local Radio Shack and spoke to my tech guy. When I saw that he had refurbished and display model netbooks and heard the prices, I realized that it was the best way for me to go until I can get a laptop with the right specs for voice recognition.

I decided to get the display model HP Mini 210 at a discount so I'll have a computer around in case all else fails. My plan was to use the netbook with a mouthstick until I can get a new laptop, but I was also curious about whether speech recognition would work at all on it.

I tried out the Windows 7 speech recognition in Windows Starter. Even with the built in mic and at 1 GB RAM, it caught some of what I said, especially the navigation commands. It opened and closed programs and windows fairly easily and went up and down web pages in Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. This alone is useful and falls into the "better than nothing" category in terms of saving energy. I then added a headset microphone which helped a bit. More RAM would probably help too. But as far as dictating writing goes, it looks somewhat bleak. Even my attempt to dictate "Dear Mr. Smith" into an email fell flat.

I don't have a copy of Dragon 11, which claims to work on netbooks. I still haven't seen a review of how it works on a netbook, but if anyone has, let me know.

If you can type with an assistive device and need portability, a net book is remarkably fast considering the specs. The HP mini 210 is fine for viewing videos, word processing, email, surfing the net and social media. I suppose it's also an indication of how far my laptop is gone that the mini boots faster and is less aggravating to use, even with a mouthstick and pecking at it, than my laptop is with voice recognition some days.

And my cat is very happy. He can actually fit in my lap with the netbook - and he hates speech recognition because it interrupts his naps. Now if he would only stop playing with the assistive device....


Sara said...

Thanks for writing about this topic. We've been testing voice recognition on various netbooks in our lab but had a hard time getting Dragon to work well for long periods of time. Netbooks are definitely handy, since they're much lighter weight than even MacBooks.

We write about assistive technology daily on our blog If you are looking for reviews of technology please let us know. We don't have Dragon 11 yet either but will (hopefully) have it soon.


Ruth said...

Thanks for the information, Sara. I will definitely be checking your site.