By Derek Austin

The natural way for us humans to work together is to talk to each other. And yet, when we work with computers, smartphones and other devices, we often type, gesture or mouse using our fingers and hands.

Not only is typing unnatural, it’s also a slow way to communicate. You can speak at least three times faster than you can type.

The latest speech recognition technology lets busy people in the retail space work more naturally and get things done faster by simply speaking. In fact, nowadays, you can talk your way past many productivity bottlenecks.

Mobile work platforms such as smartphones and tablets have speech recognition features that allow you to do two things. First, command and control instructions can be used to command your device to dial numbers, make appointments and set reminders.

Secondly, you can also use your voice to enter text. This is classic speech recognition known as transcription; what you say turns into text on the screen. You can use transcription to quickly write text messages and emails to suppliers, manufacturers and colleagues much faster than you can tap them out on your phone.

Speech recognition not only makes it easier and quicker to use your mobile device, it also allows hands-free use in situations where your hands are busy, such as rummaging through a shipped order. Speech recognition lets you send texts and emails, and in particular, a series of short directives to team members effortlessly.

To get the most from your device, understand the capabilities of your particular platform — they all differ — and test the commands to find out what works best for you. Phones differ in their ability to handle noisy environments so work out the situations where you get reliable responses from your system, and optimise your productivity by working only when you know you’ll get good results.

In the case of computers, you may have shifted a lot of your technology use to mobile devices, but you probably still have need for a computer. Many people require the larger screen, keyboard, storage sizes and the power of a desktop or laptop system to work with spreadsheets, larger documents, power browsing and specialised applications.

Speech recognition in the desktop environment is similar to that found in mobile devices. It provides command and control as well as transcription functions. However, the greater power of the desktop machine means it can also personalise speech recognition so that accuracy is much higher for your voice.

All speech recognition systems start with information about how a language such as Australian English sounds and what is said in that language. Linguists and software engineers pull this information together from recordings of thousands of people and large databases of written text. For command and control, specific words are used as commands so the computer knows what to expect.

In personal speech recognition systems information is extended even further so that the system knows the sound of your voice and analyses your emails and documents so it has a better idea of what you are likely to say. The software can even learn from its mistakes if you correct its errors.

Personal speech recognition can provide a fantastic boost to productivity. Technology such as Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12, lets you set up your speech profile in less than 15 minutes.

You need two skills to be an effective user. The first is an old fashioned skill called dictation.  The second skill you need is being able to drive your speech recognition system using commands. Commands tell your computer what to do. They are also used in dictation when punctuating, editing and correcting mistakes, so that the speech recognition software can learn from its mistakes.

In today’s busy retail environment, where resources are minimal and the day-to-day activities demanding, speech recognition technology can help you boost your productivity quickly, effortlessly and cost-effectively.

Derek Austin is the director of Desktop Dragon Solutions Asia Pacific.