I’m writing this with a tequila bottle in one hand and a five dollar cigar in the other. That’s not totally true, I guess, or even true at all in the technical sense. But I could be writing with booze and smokes in my hands if I wanted, and every writer in literary history would envy me. Today for the first time I’m attempting to use speech to text software to write a real thing that real people might read.

I’m trying this in anticipation of a neurological rebellion that might hold my hands hostage, like socialist guerillas occupying a power plant, but I’m finding it a problematic exercise. For example, in the prior paragraph the speech to text software thought that the word “for” should be “from.” When I tried to edit the word, the software obtusely led me on a Maypole dance through four or five incorrect commands. The most entertaining was when I said “select four words right,” and the software interpreted it as “Open World of Warcraft.” I am not making that up. I haven’t logged on in years, so it was a surprise. Also, it’s really hard to get this program to type the phrase “Open World of Warcraft” when it thinks you want to open the program World of Warcraft whenever you say those words.

The preceding paragraphs took me five minutes to write. They took seven months to edit, otherwise known as 30 minutes, but anyone who challenges the seven months interpretation can put on this god damn headset and try it themselves. It also aggravates me that the stupid software doesn’t understand the word “obtusely.”

A quick experiment has just shown me that this program understands almost no profanity. That is a F you see Kay I in G shame, and I expect that’s going to slow down my words per hour considerably.

Holy frijoles! (I just found out it doesn’t understand Spanish, and I had to type “frijoles.”) I don’t know why, but all on its own this software just tried to take something I said and post it to Twitter. I hope it wasn’t “F you see Kay I in G.” That’s a little bit scary if you ask me.

The biggest problem I’m having is that I’m not verbally oriented. I have a hard time learning things by listening to people, especially if they’re really boring people like most of my college professors. I learn things by doing them. That’s handy when you write by typing on a keyboard with your actual fingers. But in order to speak the words I want to write, I have to stop and think about every phrase before I say it, so that it doesn’t come out sounding like a Neanderthal on Quaaludes. (Holy crap! This program understands what Quaaludes are. I bet that’s because the people who use this program have to take them a lot.) So, for these few paragraphs that would normally take me about half an hour to write and edit, this program has demanded an hour and a half, a liter of Diet Coke, and a surreptitious pull off the Cuervo bottle. (I see it understands Cuervo too.)

Despite all that, I admit that this would be better than not being able to write at all. So I’m going to call this test successful, maybe have a party, and definitely have a celebratory bag of peanut butter M&M’s. Technology is a damn fine thing, but I will say that I never want to have software integrated into my body, no matter what technologists say. It would take me 45 minutes to pee.

This was my facial expression the seventh time I said, “jump six lines down,” and it typed something horrible about cocaine and clowns.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.




73 thoughts on “I Should Never Be a Cyborg

  1. I’m so sorry this is proving problematic. Hope it improves with use … I understand it does but that it takes a little time to learn a person’s voice & vocal habits.

    • I’ve been a little scared of what my iPhone would say to me, since it goes everywhere with me and certainly knows too much. I should try it out though–something for my wife and me to laugh about on the way to the counselor’s office.

    • Thank you very much! I’d blush if I could find an emoticon for it. (pink) (red) (scarlet) (burgundy) That’s the best I can do, but I do quite sincerely appreciate your kind words.

  2. I had to laugh at parts of this…reminded me of when I first tried using the Dragon Speaking program about 14 years ago. It had a very, very hard time with southern accents. I was not sad to see that program bite the dust when we got rid of our old computer. But I applaud this software’s shortcomings in profanity – shows some good taste somewhere in the programming. 😉 Btw…congrats on being FP!

    • Fourteen years ago? I can’t quite imagine how rudimentary Dragon must have been back then. I should be thankful for what I’ve got, and maybe the entire problem is my southern accent. It could all be my parents’ fault. I’ll keep working with it, and I’m sure things will get better. Regarding the profanity, I do believe that the software has far more class than I do, to my everlasting embarrassment. And thank you for the congrats!

  3. I was just wondering about text to speech programs the other night. I don’t think I would take well to them at all. Typing on the keys gives me just the right amount of time to collect my thoughts. I think my rhythm would get all screwed up if I tried a software like that. And heaven only knows what I’d be posting to twitter! 🙂 Great post – congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Thank you very much for the congrats! Speech-to-text is beating me up rather badly at the moment, but I’m looking on this as a training period. You know, get proficient with it before I’m forced to use it. The Twitter thing just creeps me out though. I didn’t exaggerate that. One moment I was trying to edit “use” into “us,” and the next moment a box popped up all prepared to post the next thing I said to Twitter.

  4. Terribly sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble, but it is providing endless entertainment for me and my fellow readers. By the way, I am using my speech to text function on my Android device right now.
    It’s a little challenging to make sure you enunciate each word when you’re not used to doing so. The only problem I have had thus far, is my phone substituting annunciate for “enunciate”, which apparently it does not recognize to be an actual word.

    • I know that you’re right, it’s a matter of practice and discipline. I’m determined to make it work, although along the way my software may learn some bad words just from hearing me say them so often. But I am glad a little entertainment is bubbling up! Thank you for the comment.

  5. It was the featured image that brought me here, but the cuervo kept me. This is a really interesting post! Sometimes I’ll send texts on my iPhone using the voice recognition program, and while it’s usually pretty accurate I don’t think I’d have the patience to write an entire blog post with it. Kudos, and congrats on being FP!

    • Thanks for the congrats! Yes, my wife made Star Trek tribble noises when she saw the image–it’s pretty sweet. I don’t think I could write a post on my iPhone, but maybe I should try. Whenever I go to the Apple store the geniuses mock me for not owning a MacBook, so I may be using the wrong technology.

    • Thank you very much! If you enjoy any of my other posts, please let me know. Or if you never read any of them, that’s okay–just pretend you did and send me a couple of glowing comments, and I’ll be happy. Thanks again!

      • Haha I was going to comment on several but I didn’t want to spam. I literally died reading your cat post since I have quite a cheeky cat myself it was just ridiculously hilarious and I also saw your dilemma with getting a dog named Angus.. In lesser words I am in love with the drama and (sarcastic) humor in your life!

    • Thank you, Sarah, I’m so happy that you’re enjoying the posts. The next time I get a response from an agent that doesn’t tell me to do bad things to myself, I’ll point to your comment as a reference!

  6. Maybe you are talking too slow for the program. You don’t have to change the pace of speech that is most comfortable for you. Just go to settings on the tool bar and select the proper southern region from the drop down menu. You should be up and ambling in a bit. (Do not use voice to text to engage this function. It won’t F you see Kay I in G work.

    • Thanks man, I’ll try it. It’s set to southern dialect now, but I admit I’m probably talking too slowly. I used to be able to think faster than reality could occur, but I have medication for that now.

  7. Oh and congrats on the Fresh Pressed. I have twice bumped my head on the table and pulled a muscle once while reading your posts. If laughing at your posts becomes more widespread, maybe my insurance company will cover the injuries.

    • Thank you, Steve! I appreciate your loyal support. It’s all the more impressive considering you’ve seen my table manners.

  8. Hilarious! I’ve been using the text-to-speech on my phone lately, and some of the things it confuses are crazy! I’m definitely surprised it knew quaaludes and cuervo!!

    • Thanks, and I’m glad you think the blog is worth finding! Yeah, the program is frustrating, but I should be able to get it to an acceptable level of efficiency sometime before I die.

    • No, don’t wait! I need the solidarty of other frustrated people who get drunk at night and dictate to the thing in Esperanto, just out of spite. Thanks for the very kind words though.

  9. I don’t think we should give robots this kind of power. Remember ‘Terminator’ and ‘The Matrix’? And ‘I, Robot’?
    I have robots calling me many times a day talking about this election ‘we humans’ are having. I think that was a mistake too!

    • I can’t argue with you on this. As Sheldon Cooper says, when the robots take over, microwave ovens will lead the charge. But if I don’t cave in I’ll eventually be forced to just flail at the keyboard and hope for the best. On the other hand, I could probably turn out scripts just as good as any used for an episode of “Dallas.”

      • HipsterApproved.net says:

        Yeah…it’s hard to not keep up with technology.
        It’s not like I don’t want a smart phone…I just can’t afford one.
        Imagine not ever using a toaster. Life would be back to Cave-Man style!

  10. When I was in residency, there was a brand new computer out to assist with surgeries. Aesop held the camera and moved it on command with voice recognition software. The guy commanding the camera had a very short fuse, and if the computer did something stupid in response to his command, he would start yelling cusswords. The computer would then go insane, and start whirling wildly around and around or panning up and down. The more he yelled, the worse it got.

  11. I just made the switch from an iPhone 4 to Samsung Galaxy s3 and im using voice recognition for the first time and I must say it is the most aggravating thing in the world I share that little creatures facial expression. And I am NOT making any edits to Mike on it print the seas my comment. (I am not making any edits to my comment…parentheses my comment)

    • Right on, sister! Let’s throw off the yoke of our cybernetic overlords! Or something.

      Um, actually the results of your voice recognition look really good compared to mine.

  12. I am still not ready for the whole voice command thing. While it sounds incredible on paper, in practice it leaves much more to be desired. I still find that typing is going to be the way we input virtual data for quite some time. Imagine being in an office where everyone was speaking to write their emails. There would be that one loud guy who just yells the commands to ruin what everyone is typing.

    • Yes, speaking as someone who shared an office with three other uncultured louts for a while, I’m chilled by the idea of us all dictating emails and writing obscure technical reports at the same time. Hell, one guy had a satellite radio set to the 80’s greatest hits station and we almost murdered him.

  13. Thank you, I have needed to laugh today. My partners at work want us to try talk and type software. Having read your blog, I think I’ll keep typing for now. Thanks again for the hysterical giggles.

    • You are so right, I plan to never rely on word recognition as long as I have hands that will work a keyboard. For after that point, I’m hedging my bets. Thank you for the nice feedback!

  14. Ever notice that the iPad/iPhone won’t automatically capitalize google or android? That’s when you know it’s a serious fight. It’s just a matter of time before they drop capitalization for Motorola.

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