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Tech for Learning: Voice Recognition

Why type when you can talk? If you think better when you're speaking, want to give your arms a rest, or have difficulty typing or spelling, try these tools.

Microsoft, Apple, Android and Google all produce free voice recognition software which in most cases is already on your computer or device.

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Built-in Windows tools

Windows 7, 8 and 10 has a good speech recognition capability built in to the operating system. This enables you to dictate to the computer and it will turn your spoken thoughts and ideas into text.

Speech recognition works in Microsoft Word and other programs. It's recommended that you complete the built-in tutorial. In addition, a good quality USB headset microphone is recommended to get the best results.

In Windows 7, speech recognition can be found in Start > All Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access.

In Windows 8 and 10.  Just type "Speech Recognition" into the Windows search box.  This should enable you to set up your microphone and begin dictating.

Google Docs on your pc

You can type and edit a document by speaking in Google Docs.  It supports a large number of different languages. This facility is currently only available on your computer when using Docs in the Chrome browser, (although the Google Docs app for Android and iOS does have this facility too). It also requires an internet connection and Google account.  Please note: your speech is sent to Google's servers in order to turn it into text. You can use the built-in microphone on your computer if you have one.  A good headset microphone works best though, as it helps cut out any background noise. Find out how to do it here

Apple Mac

Built into the Mac operating system from OSX Mountain Lion or later.  Allows you to dictate documents to your Mac using just your voice.  OSX Mavericks or later has an enhanced offline dictation function. No voice training required. A good USB headset is recommended. You can also control the Mac with voice commands. 
In Mac OSX prior to macOS Sierra (10.12), dictation controls can be found in System Preferences under the Dictation and Speech control panel. In macOS Sierra, dictation can be found in System Preferences - Keyboard - Dictation.
Find out more

Other Apple devices 

Voice recognition can be activated when typing on your iPhone or iPad.
If this facility is available in the app you are using, a microphone icon will appear on the on screen keyboard. Tapping this icon activates the voice recognition. Usually requires an internet connection to work.
Some Apple devices using an A9 or newer processor and iOS 10 now have offline dictation capability in some languages. To check if your iPhone or iPad has this capability go to Settings - General - Keyboards.  Then scroll down to the bottom of the screen. It will state "You can use Dictation for (language) when you are not connected to the internet"

Dragon Dictation

You can also get Dragon Dictation as a free app from the Apple App Store. This app enables you to dictate your thoughts and ideas onto your iPhone or iPad.  You can then copy and paste the text into other apps. However, it does require an internet connection to function, as the app send your words to the Nuance servers for conversion to text.  Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Speech recognition can be activated when typing on your Android device.

If this facility is available in the app you are using, a microphone icon will appear on the keypad. Pressing this activates the speech recognition.

Android does have offline speech recognition capabilities.

You can activate this by going to Settings - Language and Input - Voice Input and touch the cog icon next to Enhanced Google Services.

Choose "Offline Speech Recognition" and select the "All" tab to download your preferred language if it's not already installed.  The location of this setting can vary slightly depending on the version of Android your device is running and the manufacturer.

Once the language is installed and set as default, you should find that offline speech recognition works in apps such as Google Keep, Google Calendar, Gmail, Docs etc

Depending on the app you are using, speech recognition sometimes requires an internet connection to work.   Please note that some apps require to send your speech to a server in order to convert it to text. 

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