Saturday, December 4, 2010

My computer is listening to me...

Imagine my surprise the other day to find out that my computer has a speech recognition software program on it.  I was deep into making excuses to my writing coach about how it would be easier for me to write if I could just say the things I wanted to say and have someone/something take down the words so that I could edit them later.  In the midst of this brilliant excuse for not being able to write, the coach tells me to type "speech recognition" into the search bar on the start menu of the computer.  Lo and behold, up pops proof that my last lame excuse for not writing has just been blown out of the water.  It turns out the software is a standard part of Windows Vista. 
I cautiously clicked the link to open the program and was greeted with an option to enable it.  I did.  The software assured me that before I could do anything of any consequence with this program,  I would need to have a microphone, preferably a headset for proper boom positioning.  After a series of clicks and whatnot, I was directed to a tutorial that would teach me how to operate the program so that I could become the writer I had always told people I was.  There was much info about how to train my computer to listen to me, recognize to peculiarities of my speech patterns and even anticipate what I might have meant to say when it couldn't understand me.  At the end of the tutorial, an ominous message blinked letting me know that it was important to be aware of the settings for the program.  If I was not careful, "the computer will listen to everything I say".  Holy cow!  I wasn't too concerned about this because I didn't even have a mic yet.
So while I was laughing with my coach and trying desperately to come up with some other reason I couldn't possibly write, I heard a "blip" - I looked over at the computer screen and there at the top was a little box with a message..."Listening...."  EEP.  I think I might have screamed or at least gurgled in shock. That's when I found out that the computer also comes equipped with a mic.  Probably not as sensitive as the headset with proper boom positioning type, but sensitive enough apparently. 
We figured out how to put the computer to sleep (ostensibly it could not listen to me while it was sleeping) and then I whispered to my coach... "I think to make is start listening, I have to say (tone lower still) 'start listening'."  "Blip" .... again with the little message at the top of the computer screen "Listening....".  Terrifying.
That's a pretty good mic.
I spent the next couple of hours training my computer and messed around with using voice commands to open and navigate within a variety of applications/programs.  It was very cool and before I went to bed, I made sure the computer wasn't just sleeping but was off. 
Then, today, I started writing.


  1. Ohmigosh!! What a funny story. I repel technology myself, so I completely get where you are coming from and would be totally freaking out if I knew that my computer was listening to me... and responding. Eep. I hope it never learns to put the dog out. (wink, wink) Congrats on the writing coach. What a cool, trendy and useful tool to have in your box; plus it's a great thing to drop into casual conversations.

  2. You were right there was a way to comment anonymously. The writing coach appreciates the mention. Good work so far. I am glad I could help and look forward to next time.

  3. I have Vista on my other laptop. I didn't know it could listen. I don't want it to listen.
    A long time ago, I tried dictating what I thought I wanted to write. It was a disaster. I'm a far better writer than I am a speaker.