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Training a Dragon…to Type!

Have you ever noticed how fast you speak sometimes?  I know we all notice the speed at which we drive down the freeway, even if we pretend not to, but have you ever stopped to think about the speed at which you speak? And more so, could a dragon help you realize this?

I don’t know about you, but I had never thought about any other way of typing than to actually use my fingers and strike the keys on a computer keyboard.  I know I’m not the fastest typer out there, but I’ve always felt proud of my 70 wpm typing speed.  Somehow I managed to write all my college papers without ever missing a deadline. Granted, some of those papers were written the night before they were due and sometimes even printed out 30 minutes before class started, but they were always on time.  Then, of course, I was left walking like a zombie throughout campus for the rest of the day; nothing a good cup of coffee could not fix, right?

About 2 months ago I applied for a transcriber/caption editor position at Aberdeen Captioning, and while going through the interview process I was asked to transcribe an 8-minute long video.   As soon as I opened the video and saw the length of it, I thought, “Piece of cake,” so I started typing away.  After half an hour of changing back and forth between Microsoft Word and Media player, rewinding the video several times, and being nowhere close to being done, I found myself talking to the computer and saying, “Hold your horses!”  Needless to say I needed a break, but I kept thinking, if only I could type faster, or even better, if the people in the video could speak slower, this task wouldn’t be as frustrating.

Within my first week at the job I was introduced to my new dragon friend; Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Doing justice to its epic name, this speech recognition software has made my transcribing experience a lot more interesting from the moment I started using it.  Remember how in the movie Eragon, the dragon Saphira, could read Eragon’s thoughts?  That’s more or less how this program works.  Obviously Dragon doesn’t type what you’re thinking, but after a short training, the program learns how to understand your voice and you’re good to go!  So instead of typing what people say in a video, you speak the words and Dragon types it for you.  Pretty neat huh?

Despite being excited about using a new program, I still had my doubts. Could this voice recognition software really be faster than my 70 wpm typing? I mean, that’s a decent typing speed, right? Besides, when I type I can fix my mistakes immediately whereas with Dragon it’s easier to keep dictating and then go back and fix my mistakes later.  I was skeptical about this dictation program’s effectiveness against my own.  If there’s one thing I remember from my biology classes in college is that I have to test my theories to obtain an answer, so  I decided to put an end to my doubts and find out if all my years of typing would help me compete with this dragon.

Two minutes of typing. I don’t remember ever surrendering so fast, not even when I ran 3 miles under 100⁰ F weather in cross-country! I had to face it; I can speak significantly faster than I can type. The Dragon Naturally speaking software is a great tool that tremendously improves your typing speed, especially if you’re typing a long paper; after all, Dragon doesn’t get tired of typing and I hardly believe anyone would ever get tired of talking.  I mainly use the program to dictate what other people speak, but I can’t help to wonder how much it would’ve helped me in college when I had to write those 10-page papers. This program types words that I don’t even know how to spell, automatically capitalizes words after periods and what’s best, I can keep training it to understand me better every time I notice a mistake; that’s a keeper, if you ask me.