Digital Tool Review: Dragon Dictation

Collaborative Assignment where we were asked to create a digital review of an application.

Gathering Information:

Dragon Dictation was developed nineteen years ago within the Nuance Incorporation. It can be found, along with directions for use at http://www.nuance.com. Dragon Dictation is a diverse tool with practical real world applications. Nuance Inc. considers Dragon Dictation to the be the replacement for the old fashioned dictaphone within personal, business and healthcare situations.  There are many versions of Dragon Dictate available, each with varying abilities, and subscription costs.

See Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 – Comparison of the different versions of Dragon Software. http://www.nuance.com/for-business/by-product/dragon/product-resources/edition-comparison/index.html

Dragon Medical is currently being used in conjunction with The Medical Centre in Illinois to document patient care using the dictation software. More information on this developing project can be found here.

Most reviews of Dragon Dictate are positive (see Fig. 2), while still pointing out limitations of the tool. The reviews fair and balanced, while the product information provided by the company is understandably one sided.

Fig. 2 – Dragon Software achieves a 4+ star rating on the first page of a Google search.

Installation of the tool is simple and easy. Once downloaded a YouTube tutorial video efficiently guides a user through the application. The tutorial video is available to the user through the settings tab along with other video tutorials. The tutorial function ensures smooth and successful usability.

This smooth design with a simple user interface, comes with a price tag. Dragon Dictation requires a monthly subscription of €14.99. Reviewers also suggest that when using this tool with your desktop computer, it would be worth your while to buy a decent noise canceling microphone to refine your experience. Many websites, such as http://www.software4students.co.uk, and www.nuance.co.uk market this tool as ‘ideal for students’, however this monthly subscription charge, along with the possible need to buy further hardware for best results, is prohibitive.

The majority of reviewers claim that Dragon Dictation is far superior to Siri, Google-talk and similar applications. A review from Macworld states that the software is more responsive than Siri or Mac’s own dictation software. In contrast to Apple’s own dictation abilities, Dragon users can dictate paragraphs of text, whereas Apple allows users to dictate only a few sentences at a time. The following table highlights some of the differences between similar applications (see Fig. 3 – produced by https://speechlogger.appspot.com). The main strength of Dragon Dictation, would also appear to be a weakness. Dragon Dictation is intuitive, in that it trains itself to recognise the idiosyncrasies of your voice. The application would not be as receptive or as accurate if a group was, for example, recording the minutes of a meeting. The tool could also not be shared within small offices such as a small doctor’s practice.  Each individual user would have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Fig.3 – Dragon Dictate tools comparison table.  https://speechlogger.appspot.com/blog/dragon_comparison/

Dragon Dictate is currently on version fifteen for the pc/mac application. Dragon Anywhere for iOS is on it’s first version. As of the 2015 new product launch, Dragon are no longer providing headsets with their dictation software. Overall, users think that the new software is simple to use, but some users have experienced issues with their subscriptions. Despite the more varied ways of purchasing the software, for example, via app store or purchasing a physical copy of the software, Android users have complained about the lack of updates for Dragon Anywhere on mobile devices. The application has not been updated since October 2016. Nuance have official forums for customer support, however, these forums have not been active since October 2016 either. Dragon seems to be focusing attention on Apple devices, updating the software more regularly and providing a more stable platform.

Nuance have not made Dragon software open source. This is possibly due to the nature of the software and the competitive market that it exists in. Providing this software as open source would not be beneficial as the software they are creating exists in a very competitive area with big name competitors launching similar voice recognition products.

Dragon Dictate allows users to sync their Dragon Account with  cloud storage accounts like Evernote and Dropbox. Users can choose their preferred storage system to access their work. The documents are saved as Microsoft Word documents allowing for easy access, remotely, from any computer. Both Dropbox and Evernote have sharing capabilities making the output from Dragon Dictate a competitor to applications such as Google Docs for collaborative pieces of work.

(Fig. 4 – Linking Dragon Dictate with a personal Dropbox account)

Dragon Dictation allows users to input text vocally using a process referred to as the ‘Recognizer Process’. This process involves five steps which include:

  • Speech input
  • Background noise removal
  • Audio sampling  
  • Determines the sounds in each sample and
  • Recognition

To perform all of these steps the application requires a connection to the internet, which means that the recognition part of the process is server side and is not contained within the application itself. Some mobile devices would not have the capacity to store the files being created via dictation and would also be unable to meet the processing needs for the recognition software itself. Making it operate on a server is beneficial to all users who meet the basic requirements set by Nuance.

Recommendation for this tool is positive. It has obvious advantages for people with disabilities, small scale personal use may be prohibitively expensive. For the self-employed it could replace a dictaphone and secretary with some limitations. Unlike its competitors, Dragon Anywhere does not work outside of the application and the dictation cannot be used in tandem with other software to write emails or text messages natively in their respective apps.

Improvements could be made to the application by extending the amount of time that it remains listening if you stop talking. The current length of time is 20 seconds. This may cause issues if you pause to think of something to say or become distracted. Apple’s solution to this problem is the ‘Hey Siri’ function for iOS, and Amazon’s Alexa, is activated by saying Alexa before any command.

Within the academic arena, Dragon Dictation benefits students by allowing them to record research and preparation for essays using the dictation software. This cuts the time required for taking notes by hand and allows students to dictate notes more quickly and fluidly. It frees students from writing and records a clear spoken train of thought. A PhD student has linked dragon software with Express Scribe in order to cut transcribing her one hour focus group recordings. She found that by using both these applications together she was able to cut the time required to transcribe a one hour focus group from six hours to three hours. This is just one example that shows that using software such as this can be used to reduce the effort and time needed to record research that will be used in the future.

Within the collaborative process, working with a group of people that I had chosen to work with was effortless. At first we utilised Messenger as a communication tool, however, we soon moved to Google Docs to more fully document our process. We agreed on a hierarchy of tasks and deadlines for completion. The process ran smoothly as everyone completed their assigned tasks by the agreed deadlines. We concluded our collaborative process by meeting together to complete the review.

After choosing a Digital Tool from www.dirtdirectory.org, we all set about downloading a trial version of the application. We tested the application in different environments such as within lectures, at home in front of the TV, and for personal use sitting at a desk (See Fig. 5). While the only success we had with this version was personal use, the more expensive versions offer various options for recognising different voices and users.

(Fig. 5 – using Dragon Dictate while sitting at a study desk)