Speech Recognition in XP

This article will describe to you how to use speech recognition in Windows XP. If you installed speech recognition with Microsoft Office XP or if you purchased a new computer that has Office XP installed, you can use speech recognition in all Office programs.

Speech recognition enables the operating system to convert spoken words to written text. An internal driver, called a speech recognition engine, recognizes words and converts them to text. The speech recognition engine may be installed with the operating system or at a later time with other software. During the installation process, speech-enabled packages, such as word processors and Web browsers, may install their own engines or they may use existing engines. Additional engines are also available through third-party manufacturers. These engines often use a certain jargon or vocabulary. For example, they may use a vocabulary that specializes in medical or legal terminology. They can also use different voices allowing for regional accents such as British English or they can use a different language altogether, such as German, French or Russian.

You need a microphone or some other sound input device to receive the sound. In general, the microphone should be a high quality device with noise filters built in. The speech recognition rate is directly related to the quality of the input. The recognition rate is significantly lower or may be unacceptable if you use a poor microphone. The Microsoft Speech Recognition Training Wizard (Voice Training Wizard) guides you through the process, recommends the best position to place the microphone and allows you to test it for optimal results.

After you have installed the system and it is working, you must train the engine for your environment and speaking style. To do so, click the Speech Recognition tab, click Train Profile and then follow the instructions in the Voice Training Wizard to train the system to recognize background noises, such as a fan, air conditioning or other office sounds. The engine adapts to your speaking style, including accents, pronunciations and even idiomatic phrases.

Why do we use speech recognition?

The reason is simple. Most people can speak much faster than they can type. A relatively fast typist who can type 50 net words per minute can produce a 300 word e-mail in six minutes. Using speech recognition software, a person dictating 140 to 160 words per minute without any errors can produce the same 300 word e-mail in roughly two minutes.

Traditionally viewed as simply a means of dictating text into a personal computer, today’s speech recognition software can play a far more significant role in the healthcare environment. In addition to pure dictation, speech recognition software can be used to manage e-mail, streamline repetitive tasks on the PC, reduce transcription and charting costs, speed up information turnaround and protect employees from repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).

Install Speech Recognition Engine

To determine if speech recognition is installed on your computer, follow these steps:

1. Click Start, click Control Panel, click Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices and then click Speech.
2. Look for the Speech Recognition tab. If the Speech Recognition tab is available under the Speech Properties, the speech recognition engine is installed. If it is not available, the engine is not installed.

If you don’t have it and would like to install it, follow these steps:

1. Click Start, click Control Panel and then click Add/Remove Programs.
2. Click Change or Remove Programs, click Microsoft Office XP and then click Change.
3. Click Add or Remove Features and then click Next.
4. Under Features to install, double click Office Shared Features.
5. Double click Alternative User Input, click Speech, click the down arrow and then click Run from My Computer.

6. Click Update. Speech recognition is now available in all Office programs and other programs where it is enabled such as Internet Explorer.

When you train the Speech Recognition Engine, the speech recognizer uses the Voice Training Wizard to adapt to the sound of your voice, word pronunciation, accent, speaking manner and even new or idiomatic words. If you train for as little as ten minutes, you can improve speech recognition capabilities. The system also adapts to your speech on an ongoing basis and recognition increases over time.

To train the Speech Recognition Engine, follow these steps:

1. Click Start, click Control Panel and then double click Speech.
2. Click the Speech Recognition tab and then click the Speech Recognition Engine that you want to use in the Language box.
3. Click the profile that you want to use in the Recognition Profile group. Training is specific to an engine and profile so that training one engine or profile set has no effect on any other engine or profile set.
4. Click Train Profile and then follow the directions in the Voice Training Wizard. Not all engines support training. If your engine does not, Train Profile is unavailable.

Use the Speech Recognition Engine

  • Position the microphone so that it is about an inch or a thumb’s width to the side of your mouth. Make sure that it is not directly in front of your mouth and that you are not breathing directly into it.
  • Start the program in which you want to use speech recognition and then click the document to place the insertion point into your document. If you open a Help topic while you are working or if a message is displayed on the screen, click the document again to continue using speech recognition.
  • On the Language bar, click Microphone (if the microphone is not already turned on).

Windows XP and the Speech Recognition Engine

Now, you’re ready to start using speech recognition via a tool in Windows XP called the Language Bar. The Language bar is a
floating toolbar that appears on your desktop automatically when you add handwriting recognition, speech recognition or an Input Method Editor (IME) as a method of inserting text.

At this point, you should configure the Language Bar and other Windows XP speech settings.

To configure the Language Bar and Windows XP Speech Settings:

1. Click Start, open Control Panel.
2. Click Date, Time, Language and Regional Options and then click Regional and
Language Options
. Under “Text services and input languages,” click Details.
3. Under Preferences, click Language Bar.

4. Select the Show the Language bar on the desktop checkbox.

The Text Services and Input Languages dialogue opens, as seen above.

Clicking the Language Bar button allows you to configure how you want the Language Bar to appear. You can choose from four options such as having it float or having it docked on the toolbar.

The following is an example of how to use this Language Bar in an MS Word document.

Speech to Text (Speech Recognition) Example From Within MS Word

Go to the Tools menu and select speech to start the language bar. If you have not used the feature before, it will ask you to “train” the system to recognize your spoken voice. When this is completed, you click on the microphone button. A window will open with the word “Dictation” or “Listening.” As soon as you start speaking, the words will start to appear in the document one sentence or word at a time, depending on your pauses. Click the microphone button again from the language bar to turn off the speech recognition function.

This feature works best when using a headset microphone in a quiet environment.

Happy speaking!

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami