Training my dragon…

The latest released version is 11 and this is 8. I don’t know how much things have changed but I suspect some of these issues are still valid. Firstly you need an Internet Connection to activate the software and the only reference to this is on the box in very small print, not on the top, the front the back or the side but underneath! Secondly, a product sold to ‘replace slow and painful typing’ and enable you to ‘control your PC’ still requires manual dexterity with the mouse to turn the microphone on.

I’d heard voice training was problematic but although it insisted my sound system quality was unacceptable, it got to know me very quickly. The activities were a visual challenge. I’ve enlarged everything scalable on my screen but the training windows remained small – an example of the single fixed format syndrome. Accuracy is not brilliant; you have to speak clearly and precisely so it’s not conducive to an open plan office or any degree of privacy. There will always be issues with some words and while you can train it to recognise specific vocabulary specific it still struggles with Hull; a bit like the Nintendo Brain Trainer which has similar problems with blue.

Overall, the biggest issue is remembering the commands. Like any new skill, there’s a lot to remember and not all of it intuitive. Backspace makes sense but ‘Scratch that’ for delete? I found accuracy decreased when I used it for real and it assumed punctuation rather than waiting to be asked. The need to use the Dragon Pad rather than the Word window is another limitation; I can’t find how to enlarge this without the mouse and keyboard commands respond to what ever else is open rather than Dragon Pad itself.

I’m being critical and it’s early days, but the setting up has been tough on my eyes and the need to use the mouse seems to defeat the hands-free element or have I misunderstood the marketing? It doesn’t appear conducive to free thinking or creative writing although it could be good for poetry where you are looking to create the maximum impact with the fewest words; minimalism may be key to good dragoning.

I think it could be a powerful piece of software but like all assistive technology it comes with its own training and support needs and these in themselves can be formidable barriers. Unless you follow the Mouse, Eyes and Ears MEE-Model of computer use (or have capable and willing sighted assistance) then you’re going to have to work twice as hard to have the same ease of use and take twice as long to get where you’re going to. Nevertheless, with 20-20 vision or without it – I’m not defeated yet…

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