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Google Docs Voice Typing: how well does it work?

Blue Microphones Nessie

Voice recognition is introduced to Google Docs - find out how it fared in our early tests

Not content with letting you bark search terms at your computer, Google now wants you to dictate your prose into Google Docs with a new feature it has branded Voice Typing. The speech recognition facility is tucked away in Google Docs’ Tools menu and lets you dictate your documents after pressing a big red microphone button.

At least, that’s the theory. After our brief tests of Voice Typing, we’re not about to yank out the keyboard’s USB cable… 

Things started well enough when we dictated a well-known nursery rhyme into Google Docs:

Mary had a little lamb it’s fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.”

The unnecessary apostrophe in “it’s” was a sloppy mistake, but the rest of the sentence was transcribed perfectly, albeit without punctuation. 

However, when we started to dictate punctuation using Voice Typing, things went horribly awry:

“When I was a child comma I wanted to be a policeman. it seems Google dogs doesn’t know the difference between me saying, I’m going to insert a comma.”

It transcribed the word “comma” at the first attempt, but then inserted a comma the second time around, before (and maybe more through luck than judgement) correctly transcribing the word “comma” the third time. However, it didn’t use a capital letter at the beginning of the second sentence, and then confused Google Docs with “Google dogs”. 

Nobody can accuse Google of being unpatriotic, however. It performed almost flawlessly when we dictated the first verse of the National Anthem:

“God save our gracious queen, long live our noble queen, God save the Queen. Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us, God save the Queen.”

Yet, the sinking feeling returned when we dictated the first couple of lines from Moby Dick:

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago, nevermind hello Miss Eisley, have a little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on Shore, I thought I would sell about little and see the watery part of the world.”

With no easy way to correct transcription errors and a level of accuracy that even England strikers would be ashamed of, we’re not about to start dictating the news for Expert Reviews.  

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