Review: Dragon Dictation for iPad

This is Xavier and I want to show you my favorite application on the iPad. Dragon Dictation is an application from Nuance that takes your voice and turns it into text. One of the major limitations of the iPad is that it can be difficult to use the on screen keyboard to write long e-mails or documents. To get around this limitation all you have to do is download Dragon Dictation and plug in your favorite headset. After you’re done with that all you have to do is open application and speak. It’s not always 100% perfect, but it sure is a lot better than using two thumbs to type hundreds of words.After you’re done writing you can copy and paste the text into any application on the iPad or send it as text in an e-mail. Dragon Dictation is free for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad users.

Since all of the voice to text transcription takes place on Nuance’s servers, you do need to be connected to the Internet when using it. You’ll also want to use it in a relatively quiet environment where people won’t be bothered by your voice.

When you open Dragon Dictation for iPad all you’ll see is a big record button. When you tap the screen, your iPad will begin recording your voice. Once you’re finished recording, you need to tap again to stop. A recording of your voice is uploaded to  Nuance’s servers and transcribes it into text. The text can then be emailed or copy and pasted into any application on your iPad. If there are errors in your transcription you can tap at words and choose from a list of alternate words. If the word you’re looking for isn’t in the correction list, you can manually fix it with the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. It’s not possible to train Dragon Dictation like with Nuance’s desktop applications, but the application will read your contact’s names so it can transcribe them accurately.

Typing with your voice does take some practice and getting used to. I’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking and MacSpeech on my PC notebooks and MacBook Pro, so I’m accustomed to speaking punctuations and avoiding ‘uhs’ and ‘ums.’ Humans automatically filter out fragments of words or stutters when listening to friends speak, but computers don’t know how to do that. With some practice, you’ll find yourself typing on the iPad at over 40 words per minute.  The faster you speak, the more errors you’ll find in your transcription.

Dragon Dictation is a great application, but there are some improvements that need to be made.  You’re limited to about 30 seconds of recording before Dragon Dictation automatically stops recording and starts transcribing. I understand the need for a recording time limit, but there should really be a countdown timer or an audible alert that recording is about to come to an end. Another problem is that record button at the top of the notes screen is too small. It’s too easy to accidentially place the cursor in your first paragraph of notes rather than hit the record button. I ended up with some very jumbled text because of this a couple of times. Nuance should move the record button to the bottom of the notes screen.

Dragon Dictation for iPad isn’t a replacement for Dragon Naturally Speaking or MacSpeach, but it’s much better than typing on the iPad.

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