Redstart Systems’ Voice Command Software Replaces the Keyboard and Mouse—and Not Just for Dictation

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tempt someone to hurt themselves, so we wanted to fill in all the gaps—including a good way to move the mouse, which was the last piece.”

In Naturally Speaking, moving the mouse pointer is an awkward matter of calling up a set of onscreen quadrants, choosing the one where the pointer should appear, calling up a smaller set of quadrants, choosing one, and so forth. In Utter Command, the user can simply bring up a set of rulers that provide a coordinate system spanning the whole screen. For example, saying “50 by 60” will move the mouse pointer to a location 50 horizontal units to the right of the screen’s upper left corner and 60 vertical units below it. This YouTube video illustrates the process:

From videos like this one, you begin to get a sense of how fast and efficient speech interfaces can be, at least for expert users. I was floored by Patch’s facility with the program during a live WebEx demo last week. “If you give me any one program, I can speed it up using speech,” she says. “There might be a few things that will be a little bit slower, but on average, we’ve come up with one speech command for every 2.3 mouse and keyboard commands, whether you’re running a PowerPoint presentation or working on an Excel spreadsheet.”

Unfortunately, I’m a Mac guy, and Redstart Utter Command—like Naturally Speaking—is only available for Windows. And in truth, the price tag for the combined system is too high for casual users like me who are merely intrigued by speech-driven command and control. But it may make a lot of sense for people with injuries that make it difficult or impossible to type—and there are 35 million people in the United States who fit that description, according to Patch.

“We think of this as a spring-loaded market,” she says. “There are a lot of people who have RSI and have tried speech software, but just aren’t comfortable with it because the cognitive load is too high, and because it makes them go a little slower. But if you change that and make the cognitive load a lot lower and make things work faster, then there is a reason to pick it up again.”

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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