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Wireless Mics for Speech Recognition

by Paul Nisbet

on Fri Nov 27, 2015

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When you are using speech recognition software, it's important to keep the microphone a consistent distance away from your mouth. One of the best ways of doing that is to use a headset microphone. However, most of the headset mics have got a cable attached which means that you are tethered to your computer or device. Also, headset microphones can be quite chunky and obtrusive. Lastly, if you are a wheelchair user, you may need some help to plug your microphone into your computer or device. Does a wireless microphone provide a solution?

I've been testing a "VXi VoxStar UC" Bluetooth wireless microphone with Dragon NaturallySpeaking – and I'm dictating this blog using it.

The Voxstar can be worn on a headband, neck band or earhook. With the ear hook, it's less obtrusive than many headset microphones. It comes with small USB bluetooth adapter that plugs into your computer so you don't need to have  Bluetooth built in to your computer to use it.

Once Windows has installed the bluetooth driver, you tell Dragon to use it as its dictation source - go to Profile > Manage Dictation Source and then click Add New Dictation Source. I found it took a few minutes before the microphone was available to add as the new dictation source.

Compared to my normal Andrea 181 USB wired headset, I felt that the VoxStar is not quite as as accurate or as responsive, and I think I have to speak slightly louder and more distinctly than usual. But this is a very subjective impression and maybe with some practice I will get more comfortable with it. It is still pretty accurate and so far, having dictated 4 paragraphs, it's worked pretty well.

Since it’s a Bluetooth microphone, you can use it with any Bluetooth – enabled device such as tablets or mobile phones. I used it to dictate with Siri on an iPad, and it worked very well – could be a solution for people with who have difficulty holding their iPad, tablet or mobile phone.

The VoxStar costs £110 from Speech Empowered Computing. There is also  a Dragon Bluetooth headset available from Nuance (£149), or you can buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium bundled with the wireless headset for £167 (education price) which is a saving compared to buying the software and wireless headset separately.

Verdict: Initial impression is that you get slightly better results with a wired USB headset, but if you want or need to be wire-free, check it out. We have it available for loan for trial.

Tags: dragon, speech recognition, talking in exams

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