My computer is listening to me…

(originally posted on on 12/4/2010 – edited for this posting)

Snoopy 9

Snoopy by Charles Schulz

Imagine my surprise the other day to find out that my computer has a speech recognition software program on it.  I was deep into making excuses to my writing coach about how it would be easier for me to write if I could just say the things I wanted to say and have someone/something take down the words so that I could edit them later.  In the midst of this brilliant excuse for not being able to write, the coach tells me to type “speech recognition” into the search bar on the start menu of the computer.  Lo and behold, up pops proof that my last lame excuse for not writing has just been blown out of the water.  It turns out this type of software is a standard part of Windows Vista.

I cautiously clicked the link to open the program and was greeted with an option to enable it.  I did.  The software assured me that before I could do anything of any consequence with this program,  I would need to have a microphone, preferably a headset for “proper boom positioning”.  After a series of clicks and whatnot, I was directed to a tutorial that would teach me how to operate the program so that I could become the writer I had always told people I was.  There was much info about how to train my computer to listen to me, recognize the peculiarities of my speech patterns and even anticipate what I might have meant to say when it couldn’t understand me.  At the end of the tutorial, an ominous message blinked letting me know that it was important to be aware of the settings for the program.  If I was not careful, the computer would “listen to everything” I said.  Holy cow!  I wasn’t too concerned about this because I didn’t even have a mic yet.

So while I was laughing with my coach and trying desperately to come up with some other reason I couldn’t possibly write, I heard a “blip” – I looked over at the computer and there, at the top of the screen, was a little dialogue box with a message…”Listening….”  EEP.  I think I might have screamed or at least gurgled in shock. That’s when I found out that the computer also comes equipped with a mic.  Probably not as sensitive as the headset-type mic with “proper boom positioning” but sensitive enough apparently.

We figured out how to put the computer to sleep (ostensibly it could not listen to me while it was sleeping) and then I whispered to my coach… “I think to make is start listening, I have to say (tone lower still) ‘start listening’.”  “Blip” …. again with the little message at the top of the computer screen “Listening….”.  Terrifying.

That’s a pretty good mic!

I spent the next couple of hours training my computer to the quirks of my voice/speech patterns and messed around with using voice commands to open and navigate within a variety of applications/programs.  It was very cool and before I went to bed, I made sure the computer wasn’t just sleeping but was off.

Then, today, I started writing.

Several hours later, I disabled the speech recognition software.


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