One of the most common searches that end up with visitors landing on my blog is people looking for a trial version of Dragon Dictate for the Mac. Good idea, it is quite a hefty purchase price (AU$180+) for some software that most know little about and therefore the cost vs risk factor is high. A trial version would be a good lead into the software and would allow people to have a play, see how accurate it is and become more comfortable before committing to a purchase. Great idea but alas a free trial version is not available.
As a compromise Nuance have just released to the Mac App Store Dragon Express for a cut down, yet still significant price of $US49.99 (AU$51.99). This app is an excellent introduction into voice recognition on the Mac and is essentially a cut down version of Dragon Dictate 2.5 – Nuance’s flagship speech recognition product for the Mac.
So how does it work?
Similar to Dragon Dictate you will need to train your voice in Dragon Express, this creates your personal profile and allows the Dragon speech recognition engine to understand the way you speak. This task takes only two minutes and involves reading some pre-defined text so the app can listen to how you speak. (Note: if you decide to upgrade to Dragon Dictate your trained Dragon Express voice profile will not be compatible with Dragon Dictate, you will have to train a new voice profile, but hey only takes 5 minutes in Dragon Dictate). Nuance claim that the in-built mic in your Mac can be used but from years of experience a good quality noise cancelling USB headset and mic will give you better results, no support for the Dragon Remote Microphone iPhone app . Already reading some of the App Store reviews there are alot of negative comments, most based around accuracy, I would be willing to bet a couple of dollars that is because of using the in built mic. Good quality speech recognition relies on good quality audio input with minimal or no background noise.
Dragon Express also differs from the fully fledged Dragon Dictate version in that you can only dictate into the Dragon Express window, here you will see your words transcribed into text. From the Dragon Express window you can then post or route the transcribed text to any active app – so for example into TextEdit, twitter, Facebook, Google+, email or a Word or Pages document.
If you are interested in giving speech recognition a try then this is an excellent and cost effective way to see what it is all about. Not quite a free trial but a good general overview of the Dragon speech recognition technology and the great work Nuance are doing in the Apple space. I would like to see a discount off Dragon Dictate 2.5 if you have Dragon Express installed but until Dragon Dictate appears in the Mac App Store this is a tricky one to manage and therefore isn’t yet available. If you have more questions on Dragon Express which I have not covered head over to the Nuance – Dragon Express FAQ.
Be warned, it’s a hefty download at 1.21Gb (Lion only – OS X 10.7) – virtually all of that download will be the dictionary that Dragon uses that holds words and context.
Have you tried Dragon Express? Let me know what you thought by leaving a comment.
Below is a video demo of Dragon Express for Mac in action from the “Ask The Dictator” series of YouTube video from Nuance. This gives you a good basic overview of Dragon Express in action, interesting on the post to twitter that the you can not dictate to click the OK button but still need to mouse click, which clearly shows the cut down nature of this software. I still think it is an excellent buy if you want to see how voice recognition works. At the time of posting this blog post there were only five comments on the YouTube video, most of them highly critical – I state again, using the in-built MacBook or iMac mic will not give highly accurate results, do yourself a favour and buy yourself a USB noise cancelling headset and mic before you try this software.