KnowBrainer Speech Recognition
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Topic Title: note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?
Topic Summary: Advice on using speech recognition for unobtrusive note taking
Created On: 07/25/2007 05:06 PM
Status: Post and Reply
Linear : Threading : Single : Branch
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lance415 - 07/25/2007 05:06 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - RichardW - 07/26/2007 05:21 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 07/28/2007 10:55 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - RichardW - 07/28/2007 04:59 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 07/28/2007 06:31 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - RichardW - 07/29/2007 06:23 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 07/29/2007 02:40 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lance415 - 07/29/2007 05:21 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 07/27/2007 01:50 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 07/28/2007 10:57 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 08/05/2007 05:08 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - RichardW - 08/06/2007 05:50 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 08/06/2007 08:43 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 08/06/2007 01:28 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 08/06/2007 03:10 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - stella - 08/14/2007 06:23 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 08/14/2007 07:36 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lance415 - 08/15/2007 12:02 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - mmarkoe - 08/15/2007 10:57 AM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 08/15/2007 05:55 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - CtRptr - 12/18/2012 05:02 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - Lunis Orcutt - 12/18/2012 09:40 PM  
 note taking: anyone use the Sylencer mask?   - wheelstb - 12/19/2012 10:27 PM  
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 07/25/2007 05:06 PM
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Lance415
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I'm wondering how feasible it is to take notes in a crowded law school classroom using Dragon.  Has anyone managed to do this?

I noticed there is a new kind of Sylencer mask with a built-in "Smart Mic" that claims to be designed for speech recognition. 

http://www.notetaker.net/pages/products.html

Anyone have experience with either the original or the new version of this mask?

 

 



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 07/26/2007 05:21 PM
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RichardW
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I have one of the pre-SmartMic (DumbMic?) Sylencers and have actually ordered a new SmartMic version, but it hasn't arrived yet so I can't comment.

I have mixed feelings about the original Sylencer. It does OK at muffling your voice (people around you can still hear a small rumble), but its accuracy is substandard--usable but not great and subject to interference in some situations, for example, a booming baritone on the speaker system. If you are just taking personal notes, you may be satisfied; in more professional situations, you have lots of cleanup work to do.

You may want to check out competing masks as well, specifically the AccuSpeak and the Martel Minimask. There's also a company that makes a huge thing resembling the business end of a 1950s vacuum cleaner, but I don't recall their name and you probably don't want to go there.

My choice of the SmartMic over the other two was based on the recommendation of a vendor, who assured me it was much better than the original and steered me away from the AccuSpeak. (The vendor didn't sell Martel, and Martel never answered an e-mail inquiry, so they were crossed off the list.)

If you're worried about annoying your neighbors, there is something called a "MuffleMitt" that is supposed to enhance damping (again, in transit so I can't comment on whether it actually does).

By the way, the first few times you take these things out in the real world, be prepared for questions about your health. People assume you're on oxygen!

 07/28/2007 10:55 AM
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mmarkoe
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RichardW,

Quote:
I have mixed feelings about the original Sylencer. It does OK at muffling your voice (people around you can still hear a small rumble), but its accuracy is substandard--usable but not great and subject to interference in some situations, for example, a booming baritone on the speaker system. If you are just taking personal notes, you may be satisfied; in more professional situations, you have lots of cleanup work to do.

eMicrophones recently began selling and supporting a court reporter package. This unique package allows a court reporter to repeat everything said in the courtroom. The court reporter uses what we call notes (actually bookmarks) that associate each person in the proceedings with up to 24 shortcut keys. If attorney George Jones is assigned F1 the court reporter just hits F1 when repeating  into the Steno Mask what Attorney Jones says. This marks and timestamps Attorney Jones. If Judge Smith is F2 the court reporter just hits F2 when repeating Judge Smith's words. This keeps a running record and allows for playback during the proceedings if a member of the proceedings would like something repeated by a particular person. The court reporter ClearScribe software is also recording on a second track on the hard drive the actual proceedings verbatim, not the court reporter's words. In addition, a third recording for backup is being recorded on a Philips Digital recorder 9600. The court reporter of course uses the stenomask, the two backup recordings utilize special boundary microphones.

This sounds pretty simple doesn't it? What we found out is court reporters go to school for up to two years to learn how to talk into the stenomask so their words are recorded properly. The simplest way to describe their speech is clear whispering.

We do not actually supply a stenomask because we have found every court reporter already has one. However we have tested several of these. We have also tested a stenomask with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Because one has to whisper very special way, and we are not well trained at the technique, results were not promising. It is something we are going to look into further especially for court reporters. However, I am not surprised a stenomask does not work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and someone who does not have the extensive training of a court reporter.

The reason we are going to be looking into this further is because there is a federal law that requires access for students with limited sight and hearing difficulties. If a person could learn to dictate effectively with a stenomask into Dragon NaturallySpeaking, this would be a big aid for someone with certain disabilities to record a lecture for example.

Martin



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 07/28/2007 04:59 PM
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RichardW
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Quote:
What we found out is court reporters go to school for up to two years to learn how to talk into the stenomask so their words are recorded properly. The simplest way to describe their speech is clear whispering...I am not surprised a stenomask does not work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and someone who does not have the extensive training of a court reporter.

I am sure that the court reporters will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe the majority of the training program focuses on whispering technique per se, but on understanding legal terminology and procedures. After all, it is whispering, not rocket science.

There is a bit of technique involved in listening and speaking at the same time, but in my case I am a trained simultaneous interpreter, so that is a skill I already have. (Thinking and speaking at the same time, on the other hand...)

To give the mask manufacturers the benefit of the doubt, any kind of real-time reporting poses special challenges because you have to keep pace with somebody else's speech and there is no time to go back and make corrections,  making it very hard to improve your voice model. There is also the question of fatigue and concentration; by late afternoon your voice can be fairly raw, which certainly does not help your accuracy, nor is a case of the post-lunch drowsies conducive to clear enunciation. In my case, providing reporting services for international conferences, things are compounded by the fact that the majority of speakers do not speak English as a first language, which results in both hearing difficulties and speech that does not conform to Dragon's assumptions about how English is used.

So I recognize that this is a difficult environment and the mask cannot be held entirely to blame. On the other hand, when you have corrected for or discounted all of the difficulties, you do reach a point when you have to say that the hardware is, perhaps, not performing up to snuff. Again, the original Sylencer has not been bad, just not as good as it could be.

Quote:
The court reporter uses what we call notes (actually bookmarks) that associate each person in the proceedings with up to 24 shortcut keys. If attorney George Jones is assigned F1 the court reporter just hits F1 when repeating into the Steno Mask what Attorney Jones says.

Interesting. How does that work from a practical standpoint? One of the things I absolutely hate about masks is that they tie up your hands. I could see it becoming something of a juggle to hold the mask in one hand while trying to hit a function key with the other, especially since fatigue will require that you switch mask hands from time to time.

What I have done for conferences is program a little utility that allows me to input the names, titles and affiliations of speakers in advance depending upon their location. During the course of the proceedings, I use commands like "new speaker left three" to start a new paragraph and input the information for the third speaker on the left-hand side of the table in a standard format together with a hidden timestamp. This works fairly well when you have lots of potential participants in a discussion, provided everyone is well behaved and does not change seats.

 07/28/2007 06:31 PM
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mmarkoe
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Richard,

Quote:
There is a bit of technique involved in listening and speaking at the same time, but in my case I am a trained simultaneous interpreter, so that is a skill I already have. (Thinking and speaking at the same time, on the other hand...)

To give the mask manufacturers the benefit of the doubt, any kind of real-time reporting poses special challenges because you have to keep pace with somebody else's speech and there is no time to go back and make corrections,  making it very hard to improve your voice model. There is also the question of fatigue and concentration; by late afternoon your voice can be fairly raw, which certainly does not help your accuracy, nor is a case of the post-lunch drowsies conducive to clear enunciation. In my case, providing reporting services for international conferences, things are compounded by the fact that the majority of speakers do not speak English as a first language, which results in both hearing difficulties and speech that does not conform to Dragon's assumptions about how English is used.

You obviously have the experience that an average user/student would not have. All of the other things you mention also justify my contention that it takes a lot of experience to become a skilled stenomask user.


Quote:
So I recognize that this is a difficult environment and the mask cannot be held entirely to blame. On the other hand, when you have corrected for or discounted all of the difficulties, you do reach a point when you have to say that the hardware is, perhaps, not performing up to snuff. Again, the original Sylencer has not been bad, just not as good as it could be.

The steno masks are not designed for speech recognition. They are designed for people whispering.


Quote:
Interesting. How does that work from a practical standpoint? One of the things I absolutely hate about masks is that they tie up your hands. I could see it becoming something of a juggle to hold the mask in one hand while trying to hit a function key with the other, especially since fatigue will require that you switch mask hands from time to time.

Again, this is where all the training comes in. :-)


Quote:
What I have done for conferences is program a little utility that allows me to input the names, titles and affiliations of speakers in advance depending upon their location. During the course of the proceedings, I use commands like "new speaker left three" to start a new paragraph and input the information for the third speaker on the left-hand side of the table in a standard format together with a hidden timestamp. This works fairly well when you have lots of potential participants in a discussion, provided everyone is well behaved and does not change seats.

This is essentially what ClearScribe does with several other features. In addition to the aforementioned timestamping, it gives a list of these notes so you can scroll backwards to find which people were speaking at what time. In addition, there is a transcription system built-in (there is an optional foot pedal) that makes it easy to keyboard or echo dictate transcription.

Richard, it is not that I disagree with your experiences in any shape or kind. You need to realize that you are quite unique in that you are a self doer while most of the people we support (whether for microphones or things like the court reporter package) do not have the expertise or time to figure things out. Don't let this go to your head, but I truly respect your comments that are adversarial to the things I say.

Marty



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 07/29/2007 06:23 AM
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RichardW
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Quote:
Don't let this go to your head, but I truly respect your comments that are adversarial to the things I say.

Adversarial? I'm not adversarial...(Oops!)

Marty, like you I depend on these products for my livelihood. They're the tools of my trade, I take them seriously, and I consider playing around with them part of my R&D spending (well, that's what I tell my wife, anyway). However, where I may buy one or two of a product over a course of several years, you are presumably selling them by the case, which gives you much more leverage over the manufactuers than I have. All I can really do is run my mouth off in public forums and hope they are listening; you have a bigger impact on their sales, so it's worth it for me to tell you how these things work in the real world. Consider me a partner rather than an adversary.

Quote:
The steno masks are not designed for speech recognition. They are designed for people whispering.

That is true. <conjecture mode on> Judging from their literature, TalkTech, the people who manufacture the Sylencer line, seem to have originally envisioned a mic for "whispering interpreters" (basically, simultaneous interpreting for cheapskates who don't want to provide booths), and then realized that court reporting/speech recognition might be a good market too, which may explain some of the original's problems. <conjecture mode off>

<wishful thinking mode on> Hopefully, the SmartMic marks a realization that VR is a bigger market since none of its enhanced functionality really applies to interpreting.

By the way, any of you engineering types, if you can find a a way to stuff a Sennheiser ME-3 into a mask, and make the whole gizmo handsfree (wireless would be nice too), you'll have an incredible niche market to exploit. <wishful thinking mode off>

 07/29/2007 02:40 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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Quote:
How does that work from a practical standpoint? One of the things I absolutely hate about masks is that they tie up your hands
 
We're still waiting on the delivery of our Sylencer microphone but we are also concerned about having to hold it up to your face for extended periods of time. We will be looking at some sort of hands-free solution when we test that doesn't involve duct tape  ;-).  We're considering something that would work like a headband or a Velcro stick on strap.  We will post back with those results too.


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 07/29/2007 05:21 PM
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Lance415
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A desktop stand might also work somehow... I'm picturing that contraption they use at the eye doctor that you stick your chin on while the doctor flips through lenses

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Core i7-2630QM 2.0 GHz, NaturallySpeaking Legal 11.5, Knowbrainer 2010, VoicePower Ultimate, The Boom O headset, Andrea USB pod. [Occasionally use: Olympus DS-5000 voice recorder, Sylencer mask microphone.]

 07/27/2007 01:50 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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You should take any Nuance microphone recommendations with a grain of salt but they give the new Sylencer a very high rating.  Because of your posting, we've contacted the manufacturers of the Sylencer and plan on testing this microphone as soon as we can get our hands on one.  If it does well, we will offer and rate it on our website.

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 07/28/2007 10:57 AM
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mmarkoe
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Lunis,

Quote:
Because of your posting, we've contacted the manufacturers of the Sylencer and plan on testing this microphone as soon as we can get our hands on one.  If it does well, we will offer and rate it on our website.

See our posting to RichardW. We used the Martel steno mask for the brief testing of Dragon. Remember, you need to whisper or you will annoy people around you.

We look forward to your testing results.

Marty



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 08/05/2007 05:08 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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We have just concluded our initial testing of the Sylencer microphone.  Our early test results were somewhat less than satisfactory because we were not able to grasp the concept but after dictating for about 1 hour we were finally able to mend our ways ;-).  All of today's postings, including this one, were made with the Sylencer microphone.

 
Talk Technologies, the manufacturers of the Sylencer microphone, include an excellent instruction sheet but we found the manufacturer preset settings of the microphone volume level to be a little too high so we will be lowering the volume input gain before we ship to our customers.  We will also be including a KnowBrainer instruction sheet.  Note that the volume level is easily adjustable by the end-user.
 
The Sylencer lives up to its name.  You can dictate in near complete privacy.  You will also have an additional perk of not having to turn off the microphone because the Sylencer doesn't hear environmental noise, even when you remove it.
 

This is a highly specialized microphone that is designed for stenographers and various other job situations where dictating privacy is of the utmost importance.  The Sylencer microphone is not like using a standard microphone.  It requires more discipline.  In order to obtain satisfactory results you will need to restrict your speech slightly.  Until you get used to this microphone you will need to speak a little slower, enunciate and be careful not to overblow (excessive windage) your words.  You may additionally want to change NaturallySpeaking's default settings from Normal Mode to Dictation Mode to avoid accidental command deployment.  Above all, be patient.  This microphone takes a little getting used to but with a little practice, it can perform as well as a top-of-the-line speech recognition microphone.

We plan on intoducing a KnowBrainer Tweaked version of the Sylencer to our website sometime next week.



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 08/06/2007 05:50 AM
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RichardW
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Mine arrived as well, and I'd generally concur with your assessment. I haven't used it in the field yet because I live in Japan and it's too damned hot and humid for anyone to schedule conferences here in July and August, but it should get a couple of good workouts in September. Anyway, initial testing and training in my office show it to be much better than it's predecessor.

There is a vendor that sells a preformed black "MulffleMitt" to go over the mic and dampen sound leakage even more. I like it. Besides reducing the mumble volume, it makes the mic easier to grip and look less like a piece of medical equipment. The black also goes good with my VAIO laptop. <grin>

Another accessory I bought was a "Hands Free Stand," which is basically a bracket mounted on a gooseneck mounted a base held stable by the weight of the laptop. It's a bit of a chore to set up, and I find it hard to get as good a seal on the mask when I use it, but recognition is not affected and it does leave your hands free to do quick typing when necessary.

I'm curious how you tested reaction to ambient sound. One of the problems with the original Sylencer in conference settings was that if you put it down it was prone to hijacking by the speaker's voice on the PA system. Baritones were particularly bad news. Mechanical noise didn't seem to affect it as much. I've used the original on trains and outdoors without problems. Airplane cabin noise overpowered it, but that wasn't a big surprise. 

 08/06/2007 08:43 AM
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mmarkoe
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Lunis,

> Until you get used to this microphone you will need to speak a little slower, enunciate and be careful not to overblow
> (excessive windage) your words.  You may additionally want to change NaturallySpeaking's default settings from
> Normal Mode to Dictation Mode to avoid accidental command deployment. 

 There is only a handful of court reporters using the Steno Mask with Dragon. Changing to dictation mode is a good idea.

 Unfortunately in our research (speaking to court reporters and testing) , court reporters need to talk quite quickly to keep up with what the attendees to a deposition, trial, proceeding, etc. are saying. Because of the need to slow down, using Dragon to transcribe in real time was not an option most court reporters can use. Most who use Dragon, use it to echo dictate their recording of the proceedings. That is why eMicrophones sells the Court Reporter Complete package which records the transcriptionist's voice  while making Notes (bookmark stamps of  the date/time and name of  the person talking)  that allow playback of specific speakers on request as well as aiding in the after proceeding transcription. In addition, the proceedings are recorded verbatim on a separate track of the notebook computer and on a high quality Philips 9600 for redundancy. There can be no excuse for not having an accurate transcript of a legal proceeding.

For legal transcription and translation, the microphone is only a small part of what is needed. In our opinion, at this time, the Steno Masks are not a viable  real time Dragon option for most users. The exception is someone like RichardW who has the experience, technical know how and the drive to make it work.

Marty



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 08/06/2007 01:28 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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ClearScribe sounds like an excellent alternative and if nothing else, a great way to back everything up.  We believe that the Sylencer is capable of rapid dictation but it will take some time to get used to it. 
 
We should also point out that stenographers have the option of purchasing or upgrading to a Professional version of NaturallySpeaking which would cost considerably less and take considerably less time by utilizing deferred dictation.  The professional versions of NaturallySpeaking allow you to save wav files, in the forum of dra files, that link directly to your document so that you can play back any previously saved document in your own voice at your convenience.
 
After testing the Sylencer over the weekend, we have to conclude that it would be best to use this microphone with the professional versions of NaturallySpeaking so that the end user has the option of utilizing deferred correction.  In the future, we will make this recommendation but if anyone wants to go the recorder route, we will send them to Marty.


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 08/06/2007 03:10 PM
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mmarkoe
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Lunis,

The problem with your solution is that the DRA files saving one's speech are huge. The clear scribe recording software only takes up about 300 MB per hour which means it would only about 2 GB for over six hours of recording. In addition it has a feature called Voice Boost™ which enhances the audio recording to make it much more clear and understandable when the speakers are not facing the microphone(s) or are slurring words together. The recording playback can easily be slowed down for trying to understand something a fast talker might say or sped up to get to another part of the recording.

 Marty



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 08/14/2007 06:23 AM
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stella
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The Sylencer mask is not designed for stenographers.  Stenographers use a machine to take down proceedings.  The masks are used by voicewriters, court reporters who take down proceedings with their voices.  Stenographers generally consider voicewriters inferior reporters.  That's why we need a good microphone, to blow them out of the water.  :-) 
 08/14/2007 07:36 AM
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mmarkoe
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Stella,

You make a good point that voicewriters are different from stenographers.

There are plenty of good microphones. The problems have to do with the acoustics of talking into a mask, talking softly, and dictating quickly to keep up with what needs to be transcribed for the record. There is little or no time to make corrections on the run. This is a legal record and no excuses are acceptable. The ability to use Dragon for a voicewriter can be daunting when added to the stress of just recording the proceedings. This is why eMicrophones is providing the Clear Scribe Court Reporter package as being more realistic approach to voicewriting.

Martin



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 08/15/2007 12:02 AM
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Lance415
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Voice-writing court reporters is one market for the mask, but I wonder how many students in the world would use Dragon with a mask for note taking if they knew the option was available (particularly coupled with one of the new ultra mobile PCs)...



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Core i7-2630QM 2.0 GHz, NaturallySpeaking Legal 11.5, Knowbrainer 2010, VoicePower Ultimate, The Boom O headset, Andrea USB pod. [Occasionally use: Olympus DS-5000 voice recorder, Sylencer mask microphone.]

 08/15/2007 10:57 AM
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mmarkoe
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Lance,

Students might be a good fit for Dragon NaturallySpeaking and a silencer mask. Accuracy would not be that important. However, it would still take some training for students to learn to listen and repeat dialogue and it would take some training for a person to whisper correctly so as not to annoy/disturb students around them.

I am not saying this cannot be done. It just needs to be done correctly and not cavalierly

Martin



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 08/15/2007 05:55 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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The whispering technique is only recommended when using the Sylencer SM100 microphone to make a recording.  Whispering doesn't work well with NaturallySpeaking and it isn't necessary.   Even without the optional nose shield, the Sylencer Microphone is extremely quiet when you speak at a normal volume level.  The Sylencer takes a little getting used to but you basically just have to breathe a little shallower.  We tested the microphone last weekend and we think it would be ideally suited for notetaking with a digital recorder or directly into NaturallySpeaking.

At KnowBrainer we recalibrate the volume level of our Sylencer microphones to optimize them for speech recognition.



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 12/18/2012 05:02 PM
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CtRptr
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Ran across this string this afternoon. Does KnowBrainer sell the Sylencer SmartMic today? And do you recalibrate it?

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 12/18/2012 09:40 PM
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Lunis Orcutt
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We carried the Syencer for short time but eventually had to give up because it's not exactly the kind of item you can accept a refund on (due to the saliva buildup) and the profit margin was extremely small for a specialty item of that type. The manufacturer clearly has no idea how to properly market this item. We worked with the microphone for a while but because of the high return risk and slim profit margins we chose to discontinue carrying it although we found the microphone to be of excellent quality.



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 12/19/2012 10:27 PM
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wheelstb
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If you are looking for something that will allow you to dictate very quietly may I recommend the boomo. The boom O does a great job of working with those who need to speak quietly. Basically if you are looking for something that will allow you to whisper or dictate without bothering other people the boom o is the way to go. And now that I think about it you can get basically the same results using the audio technica Ath com with the second-generation Andrea soundcard
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