Trying Out Voice Typing, Google Doc’s New Dictation/Transcription Feature
Last week Google Docs rolled out several new features, including Voice Typing. I wanted to try this because I think this is the most exciting of the new features. It offers new options for general users of Google Docs and has the potential to be particularly useful for people who use voice recognition for accessibility reasons. Overall, it works quite well. Getting started is as simple as clicking on the Voice Typing option in the Tools menu on your document. Using this new feature is also fairly intuitive. You can simply start talking after clicking on the microphone icon that pops up and Voice Typing will kick in. Popup notice will also tell you about some of the special commands that work with Voice Typing, such as the fact that you can just say the word “period” to end a sentence and the fact that you can say “comma” to add a comma.
To test out Voice Typing’s features, I decided to dictate this post. It does a very good job of understanding speech without needing any setup first. Unlike some voice recognition programs, there aren’t any steps where you have to have the software listen to how you speak or calibrate it for your own personal accent or voice. I only know how it works for my voice so I am not sure how much difficulty it would have with other regional dialects or accents. However, it does work fairly well for me.
Having said that, there are some clear limitations. As noted above you can add punctuation by saying the punctuation but this makes it difficult to write about punctuation. For example, in the first paragraph when I said that you can say the word “period” to end a sentence that actually added a period into my sentence rather than the word as I intended. In addition, the tool currently only supports periods, commas, exclamation points, and question marks. It doesn’t have options for adding quotation marks, semicolons or other symbols. You can start a new line or a paragraph, but you can’t indent or start lists. In addition, punctuation marks are only available to users who speak Spanish, English, Italian, French, German, or Russian. However, Voice Typing is available for over forty languages, so hopefully this list will expand over time. Another important thing to know about Voice Typing is that it will turn off each time you switch to another tab within your browser. And, teachers may be happy to know that the program automatically censors most inappropriate language by adding in asterisks in place of all but the first letter. But, if you swear a lot in your writing, Voice Typing may not be for you.
Voice Typing is a very nice addition to Google Docs. While it is far from perfect and anything you dictate will likely need correction, for a free voice recognition tool, Voice Typing is quite nice and, given Google’s track record, is likely to improve over time. At this point, I doubt that many power users of other voice recognition software such as Dragon, will switch to Voice Typing. However, if you are working on a computer that does not have another dictation software installed or if you need a free option, Voice Typing is definitely worth trying for both dictation and transcription projects. Just be sure to plan in plenty of time for proofreading. You can learn more about the supported languages and technical details on Google’s Voice Typing support page and check it out in action in the video below.