I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager for Dragon NaturallySpeaking at Nuance Communications. For the uninitiated, version 10 of the decade-old Dragon NaturallySpeaking product suite was announced late last year.
According to Mahoney, "a large percentage" of Dragon's software sales come from channels that sell to consumers from small and medium businesses. While Mahoney wasn't able to give me an exact figure over the phone, he estimated the figure to be more than half of sales. This came as a revelation to me, as I've always assumed that speech recognition belonged to a relatively niche domain such as journalists and lawyers, or was nestled deep within enterprise territory.
How SMBs may leverage speech recognition
The key advantage of using speech recognition, explained Mahoney, is the simple fact that SMBs typically don't have a large pool of administrative staff. As such, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a very powerful tool for situations where writing is required. In a nutshell, speech recognition makes it very easy to create content and is perfectly suited for tasks that entail such work. And we are not just talking about writing a thesis or dissertation here; content creation can range from writing e-mails to formulating letters and presentations.
Challenges with speech recognition
The obvious challenge to the use of speech recognition software is the simple fact that it does require some training for users to be able to take full advantage of its capabilities. Then again, as Mahoney pointed out, that's an issue that affects practically all software products on the market.
In recognition of this, the company worked hard on the use of a flexible syntax and what it calls "natural language commands" in order to make it as intuitive as possible for users to use its products. Natural language commands are intuitive words that are used as command phrases to manage common software applications.
"Time to try out speech recognition again"
In closing, I asked if Mahoney had any last words to say to readers of this blog, considering the use of speech recognition to enhance their productivity. Mahoney explained that speech recognition has improved dramatically since earlier days. He summed up by saying: "If you have seen speech in the past and haven't checked it out lately, it's time to try it out again."
I recently tried out Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 for a few hours. While I will say that my experience wasn't perfect - very probably due to inadequate training on my end - my brief stint left me impressed with its sheer breadth of features as well as accuracy. As such, I must agree in my final analysis that it is nothing like my previous experiences with speech recognition technology.
Peter Mahoney is the senior vice president and general manager for Dragon NaturallySpeaking at Nuance. Mahoney was previously responsible for worldwide marketing strategy, customer programs, external communications, and industry marketing for Nuance. Mahoney holds degrees in physics and computer science from Boston College.