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NaturallySpeaking/Handsfree Computing

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  • NaturallySpeaking/Handsfree Computing

    I just happened to bump into this forum while searching for some information. So excuse me if I'm getting into a subject previously covered. I happened to begin reading the feedback on NaturallySpeaking 9. I noticed several postings regarding difficulty navigating the Internet and for that matter doing many functions other than dictating. I currently use version 7.03 in conjunction with a hands-free mouse pointing device called Smart-Nav. ( I'm a quadriplegic.
    Like many posters, I use Mozilla for both the Internet and e-mail. NaturallySpeaking doesn't work very well with either. Actually, in my opinion it didn't work particularly well with Explorer. A few years ago, I ran into a product called Smart-Nav made by an outfit called Naturalpoint. It is a totally hands-free mouse system that uses a small camera like sensing device mounted on top of your monitor. It senses the movement of a reflected dot that can be attached literally anywhere. I use mine stuck to the center of my glasses. But you could stick it anywhere that suits you including your nose or forehead. It moves the mouse with your head movements and has a "dwell feature" that automatically clicks the mouse when you pause the pointer over your mouse target. You can drag items, double-click, or even type using an onscreen keyboard if you prefer. I use the onscreen keyboard for making short entries of just several syllables rather than go through the command process necessary with NaturallySpeaking. I've been using this system for about three years and would be totally lost without it. Please understand I had no vested interest in this company but it is an excellent product and relatively cheap ($200-$400). They now have three different devices, when I bought mine they only had one. Anyone who doesn't have the use of their hands might want to take a look at this.

    My comments on NaturallySpeaking. I used the original (DragonDictate) for some time. It worked extremely well except that when advanced versions of Windows came along it was never upgraded. In command mode it was relatively fast compared to the newer version NaturallySpeaking. That's really the problem I have with it. It takes several seconds to recognize commands and in Mozilla, those commands have to sort of be improvised. For example, you can use the "click" command to open a menu item but you must then count down to the correct action item. In some cases, it recognizes normal dictation as different commands and does things like change the margin settings or spacings. Frankly, I think these problems are just inherent with this particular product. It also is almost impossible to use for filling in blanks (as in Google searches) or for that matter registering for this forum. For that, I usually end up using my mouse pointing device.

    Interestingly enough, for basic dictation, using DragonPad as the wordprocessing device, I find it to be extremely inaccurate and easy to use even though after you finish dictating, it is then necessary to cut and paste your work into the final document. I can frequently dictate 8 to 10 complete lines with no errors or mistakes.

    But like almost everything, I do have an opinion regarding microphones that can be used with NaturallySpeaking or its predecessor. Over the years, I think I've tried every microphone or headset made for use with computers. The wireless headsets didn't work and neither did the desk models. What I have found that works extremely well is a simple run-of-the-mill, cheapo computer headset microphone. Any namebrand will do as long as you follow the instructions. The most important of the instructions is that the microphone be located in the proper position relative to your mouth. And while the instructions don't normally say this, it is equally important that the microphone position he properly maintained during subsequent sessions.

    In my case, I couldn't stand being semi-permanently tethered to my computer by the headset or microphone wire so I improvised and made a microphone stand. I had a cheap headset microphone around the house and had my son strip everything but the microphone and its wire. He cut a square from a scrap of 2 x 6 and drilled a 1/8" hole in the center. He took about 2 feet of coat hanger wire and bent it into an L shape. He inserted one end into the block and taped the microphone to the other. I can drive my wheelchair right up to the computer table so I'm correctly positioned at the microphone. If an adjustment is necessary, my wife just slides the block of wood around so the microphone is properly positioned. Again, it seems to me that the microphone position is much more important than either the quality or brand of microphone. I've used to set up with three different computers using the onboard soundcard with good success.

    Lastly, I use Skype for communication with the outside world. The quality is usually excellent (sometimes an echo can be heard on either end of the call) and the price is certainly right (free for the time being). The Smart-Nav mouse pointer works very well with Skype.

    I hope all this may help someone become more independent.
    Last edited by PN; 11-01-2006, 08:44 PM. Reason: URL needed to be fixed.

  • #2
    Hi Lugnut,

    A bit off topic but I'm a T-5 so can use my hands and keyboard. But I'm a virtual flight enthusiast (especially combat flight... Lock-on: Flaming Cliffs v.1.2A being my favorite) and purchased NaturalPoint's TrackIR 3:PRO about a year ago. It worked really well and you could just move your head and look all around the aircraft, inside and out instead of using the "hat" button on the joystick or the other buttons. In the flight sim biz it's called "situational awareness" and worked perfectly for that.... like being in a real cockpit and moving your head to look around. But when you moved your head you still needed to keep your eyes on the monitor so it gave my eyes a workout. I found it a bit too fast and try as I might to create my own or download other "profiles", I couldn't get it to work exactly right... or to my liking. When I combat flight sim I can get a bit too much into it and my body english would make the view change quite often. This wouldn't happen with SmartNAV™

    Plus if you're drinking or smoking or just moving around a bit the views would change and that was rather annoying. I probably didn't give it a fair tryout and was really uncertain as to whether I wanted to keep it or not but I decided to send it back. I rarely send anything back after I buy it (RMA) but it was quite expensive (around $150) and NaturalPoint was really cool and took it back and credited my credit card really fast. They were kinda surprised that I didn't like it because it gets great reviews. Some flight enthusiasts I know from flight simulator forums consider it on par with their joystick!

    I've heard some funny stories about people sticking the reflective dot on their forehead or nose and forgetting about it and going out to the store or whatever and after coming home, realizing what they had done. People must have thought them crazy to have a silver dot on the tip of their nose! The reflective hat cost extra so I just stuck the reflective dot(s) on my own hat and turned it around backwards..... rap star style. Yeah, wearing a hat along with a headset can be uncomfortable too.

    Like you, I just use a boom mic on my desktop along with my computer speakers. I don't like being tethered to a headset either and my speakers sound a lot better than both of the headsets that I have here. I use a Logitech mic that cost about $12. It's a uni-directional mic so doesn't pick up much of the sound from the speakers unless I have them REALLY cranked up loud.

    I see that SmartNAV™ has 3 different types of hardware/software ranging from $200-$400. The TrackIR 3:PRO that I bought is now only $120 and the latest version TrackIR 4:PRO, that adds another dimension called 6DOF (Depth of Field?) is $180. So now, with version 4 if you move your head forward or backward you can zoom in or out. That's should be really helpful for situational awareness while combat simming.

    I wonder if the big price difference between SmartNAV™ and TrackIR X:Pro is because the TrackIR X:Pro is an unnecessary "luxury" or toy-like gaming device and the SmartNAV™ is a "medical" or a necessary device for some people? Hmmmmmm? Doesn't seem fair but maybe there's more of a difference between the two devices than I know.... perhaps its the software because all 3 of the SmartNAV™ hardware devices look identical to the $120 TrackIR 3:Pro that I had.

    When Eagle Dynamics, the creators of Lock-on: Flaming Cliffs v.1.2A releases their latest combat flight sim called "Black Shark", the Russian Ka-50 combat helicopter around mid-February I may try out the new TrackIR 4:PRO and see how it works out flying a chopper. You can check out the screenshots and videos at the above link... they're very impressive looking as the graphical details are beyond any others that I've seen to date. You do need a hefty/fast computer to run the sim with all the graphics maxed out and get smooth game play too.

    I also use a voice activation program when I fly. It's a free program called "Shoot 1.6.4" that uses MS' free Speech Engine and .NET Framework. It's like Dragon's NaturallySpeaking but it takes a lot of programming to get it to work as easily as NaturallySpeaking. XML programming is for simming and gaming but works with XP's free RichText documents with just a little effort (no XML programming needed) but with a lot of voice profiling. Actually it's MS' free Speech Engine and .NET Framework that does all the work in RichText, not the Shoot 1.6.4 program.

    It's quite coincidental that you mentioned Skype. I had it installed a couple of years ago when I had dialup and it wasn't all that. Or maybe it didn't even have the telephone function on it, just another chat program. I forget. But I just downloaded and installed it again last month and it works great. The sound quality is perhaps as good as the regular telephone. I even use the boom mic and speakers and people claim it sounds fine on their end. It sounds perfect on this end.... even better than my regular phone and speakerphone because of the computer speakers. It would probably sound even better for those receiving a call if you'd use a headset or headphones for listening to remove or avoid any echo or feedback. I've been calling Florida to Hawaii a lot and the price is great! FREE. And it's free to Canada too..... maybe I'll give Lynnifer a ring.

    Well, I've rambled enough for tonight. Have a good one and I'm sure you've given some people here some new ideas about communicating via the Internet.

    "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - Philo of Alexandria


    • #3
      Hi Lugnut
      My name is Anthony. I am also a Quadriplegic. I use smartnav as well and I think It's great. Where do you live ?