Vista Trick: You Talk, Vista Listens


Written on 5:32 AM by Sarthak K

Windows Vista offers speech recognition tools for those who would rather speak than type when communicating with their computers. After it has been set up, Vista’s speech recognition offers you yet another input method, one that is ultimately better than other methods if you have difficulty typing or mousing due to an injury or disability or if you simply lack the typing skills necessary to input data quickly. You can find the Speech Recognition options in Control Panel, but better than that, you can find it by typing Speech in the Start Search window. When you open Speech Recognition, you’ll see the options show in the figure below:

Configuring your Speech Recognition experience

The order in which the items are listed isn’t necessarily the order you should take when you first start using speech recognition. However, to start, you should click Start Speech Recognition. Vista will walk you through the setup process.

Starting Speech Recognition
When you click Start Speech Recognition, a wizard starts to help you through the process. You’ll need to have your microphone or headset installed prior to starting for the easiest setup. As you’re working through the wizard, you’ll be prompted to select your input method (microphone, headset, other), properly position the microphone, and speak a few words in your natural speaking voice. With that done, you’ll see the option to enable document review. By enabling document review, you can improve the computer’s capability to understand what you say, by allowing the computer to learn words and phrases you use when you speak.

Start Listening
After setting up Speech Recognition, you’ll see the listening window shown in the figure below. It continues to say Sleeping until you tell it to Start Listening. After you say the words Start Listening, the speech recognition interface changes to denote what you’re doing. That can be talking, clicking the taskbar (as shown in the following figure), or performing some other task. The Listening option shows what you’ll see if the Speech Recognition tool is waiting for you to say something. The following figure shows what you’ll see after you say “Start listening.”

Sleeping, Switched to taskbar, Listening

Opening the Speech Reference Card
Obviously, “Start listening” is a command Speech Recognition knows. But what else does it understand? To find out, open the Speech Reference Card. A Help and Support page opens with all kinds of information regarding speech tools. Click Common Speech Recognition Commands (see figure below)

Frequently used Speech Recognition commands

Here’s how this works: First, with the Speech Recognition tool running, say, “Start listening.” Follow that with “Move speech recognition.” Now, open Internet Explorer or any other window that can be scrolled up or down. Say, “Scroll down;” then say, “Scroll up.” You’ll get the idea how these commands work after playing with them a bit.

Taking the Speech Tutorial
Although you’ll be able to start communicating with Speech Recognition immediately, it’s best to take the Speech Tutorial as soon as you can. You can access the Speech Tutorial by selecting Control Panel, Speech Recognition Options. The speech tutorial will help you understand how speech recognition works and how to customize it to suit your needs and preferences.

In this particular page of the tutorial, you’re asked to say, “Show speech options.” If your computer understands the command then you are doing fine. If it does not, you’ll see “What was that?” in the Speech Recognition window.

Training Your Computer to Better Understand You
Finally, you can continue to train your PC to better understand you by completing the Voice Recognition Training, available by selecting Control Panel, Speech Recognition

Options, Train Your Computer to Understand You Better. During this training, you’ll be prompted to read the text on the screen and Vista will learn how you speak, what nuances are included in your voice or accent, and more. It’s recommended you work through the Speech Tutorial before doing this training.

Advanced Speech Options
You’ll probably want to visit the advanced speech options, available from the left pane of Control Panel, Speech Recognition Options. You’ll see the options in the following figure.

Configuring advanced Speech Properties

As you can see here, you can create additional speech profiles, which is useful if more than one person uses the SpeechRecognition program on this PC. In that case,you can select to run Speech Recognition at startup and configure microphones and audio input levels. If you’re interested in Text to Speech capabilities, notice there’s a tab for that, too.

For some excellent information on the Microsoft development of speech technology over the past decade, check out this link:

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous |

    The speech recognition in Vista is a trainwreck at best. I'd like to see somebody write code with it!

    -steve edwards


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