10 Tips You Should Know When Using Voice Commands on Your Computer

Would you like to be able to tell your computer “Answer Skype” when Skype rings and you’re in the middle of typing a report in Word without interrupting your typing AND still be able to talk on Skype? If the answer is yes, read on.

More people use voice commands on their mobile phones than ever before and the use of voice commands on the computer are rising as well.

The biggest complaint in the past has been that voice recognition software simply doesn’t work well and it’s more frustrating than helpful.  But according to Vlad Sejnoha, chief technical officer at Nuance, maker of the Dragon speech-to-text software for Windows, Macs, iPhones and iPads “You need not talk like a robot to be understood by one.”

Things have come a long way and if you follow these then ten tips when using voice recognition software the results may just amaze you.

TIP 1: Train the Program to Recognize YOUR voice

This is the very first step you should do. Windows 7 Speech Recognition and most Speech Recognition software includes a training module so the computer learns to understand the nuance of your diction, articulation and pronunciation as well as your voice patterns.

TIP 2: Speak Naturally

Vlad Sejnoha says, “Dragon’s software learns speech styles and tics over time, and you want to aim for a natural speaking flow. And it helps to think out what you’re going to say before you say it.”  Keep in mind at the beginning it’s not going to be perfect but the more you use it, the more accurate it gets.

TIP 3:  Correct Mistakes

Review content for all typos and bad punctuation and fix any mistakes.  That’s how the software learns.

TIP 4: Invest in a Good Microphone

One of the most important elements of speech recognition is the quality and position of the microphone. If your voice commands can’t be heard clearly your computer will never learn to understand your commands.

TIP 5:  Speak Your Punctuation

Remember to speak your punctuation. For example, you’ll need to say, period at the end of every sentence and question mark at the end of each question. At the beginning of each sentence you’ll say, “Capital” (and then the letter).

TIP 6: Show Numbers

This is a great little tip.  If you have a screen full of links and buttons you don’t have to always say the words.  Try using this command, “Show numbers.”  WSR Macros will superimpose numbers over every control in the window. Then you can just pick the one you want by saying the number and OK to confirm. It’s much quicker.

TIP 7: What Can I Say?

Not sure what you can say?  This friendly command will help you out.  When you ask your computer, “What can I say?” a list of available commands is displayed. Some important commands to remember are: -Start listening,-Stop listening, Open (and then the program name), Scroll up, and Scroll Down.  Memorize or write down the commands you use most frequently.

TIP 8: Update Dictionary

Add any frequently used words that the voice recognition program doesn’t understand, especially proper names or departments, to the speech dictionary.

TIP 9: Spell it

If the computer is having trouble recognizing a word you are saying, try this. Say “Spell it.” The Spelling screen opens up and you spell the word and then confirm with an “OK.”

TIP 10: Give it a Whirl for Free

Basic VR is built into Windows 7 and 8, so you can try it on a new PC for free. And Mac OS X Mavericks has pretty reasonable VR built in. So give it a shot.  When it’s free, there’s little risk.

Regardless of whether you use the built-in tools in Windows 7 or a third-party program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, voice recognition lets you work with your PC intuitively and efficiently. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve–for you and the software –but in the end, it’s worth the effort.

Do You Love or HATE Your Cell Phone’s Voice Recognition Option?

The use of cell phone speech-recognition technology is a growing field and has come a long way and is improving all the time. Still, it has a way to go before we can talk and be heard without mistakes.

When you think about it it’s a wonder this feature works at all. You’re expecting your phone to understand different accents at varying distances from its microphone.  You’re asking it to understand your voice with all types of noise competing in the background.

What if you had a couple of cocktails and have started to slur your words?  Do you think Siri or other voice recognition software would understand Midwesterns’ use of the word “Druthers?” Such as, if I had my druthers. Or, would it know “Tough tomatoes!” means tough luck?

It’s a lot to ask from a little piece of software tucked inside your phone and it’s no wonder people become frustrated and have been known to yell and scream at automated voices coming from their cell phones.

Here are some funny examples, of voice recognition gone terribly wrong:

What I actually said to my computer: Frappuccino.
How my voice software translated it: Fred Pacino.

Siri even has a sense of humor!

New York Times reporter, David Pogue, wrote a recent article in which he reviewed Google’s Moto X phone. He’s a funny guy! I had to laugh when he wrote about the voice recognition’s personality.

“And then there’s the issue of personality: Siri has it, Android doesn’t.”

“We’re talking about wisecracks, jokes, attitude, addressing you by name. If you ask Siri, “Who’s your daddy?” she replies: “You are. Can we get back to work now?” Say, “Beam me up, Siri,” and she says: “Please remove your belt, shoes and jacket, and empty your pockets.” Say, “Talk dirty to me,” and she replies, “Humus. Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel.”

My ten year old son does this all the time with my phone when we’re driving and he gets bored.  He asks my phone questions and then berates it for the replies.  It keeps him occupied for a good ten minutes at a time.

But Apple haters (yup, they’re out there) practically spit up a fur ball when you mention Siri’s personality.  Pogue reports the anti-Apple group says, “It’s not useful! It’s a parlor trick! It strains me to avoid profanity in describing how stupid you sound!”

According to Lifehacker.com, the best way to get voice assistants to work is to keep your sentences short and to the point. So, don’t stop mid-sentence, don’t ask more than one question at a time, and forget about niceties, like please and thank you.

Lifehacker also says, “You also want to speak quickly. It’s a natural tendency to speak to your voice recognition apps in the same way you would a puppy: slow and methodically. But, it’s actually best to speak quickly. Speak naturally and clearly, but don’t strain to enunciate your words or speak incredibly slowly.

This much is true: Cellphone speech recognition technology is getting more reliable, quickly. Pretty soon, we’ll be talking more to our phones than our friends!

What do you think?  Do you have a crush on your voice assistant or would rather crush your voice assistant?  Tell us your thoughts.


Do You Miss The Keyboard On Your Cell Phone?

With all the crazy texts and autocorrects, don’t you sometimes miss the keyboard on your cell phone?  The virtual keyboard drives me nuts sometimes and apparently I’m not alone.

Ryan Seacrest is a man who knows what he wants, at least when it comes to his technology. He wants a keyboard on an iPhone.  The average person would figure out which was more important, a hardwire keyboard (Blackberry) or an iPhone (but no keyboard) and settle for one or the other. But not Ryan. He’s decided he wants it all and dumped $1 million to build one.

His keyboard, called the Typo, attaches to the iPhone without covering up the screen and without adding much bulk and weight, two adjectives you definitely don’t want to use when describing your cell phone. The Typo is a two-part case made from soft-touch rubberized plastic designed to slip over your iPhone. Installation is fast, simple and easy and once installed it feels similar to a BlackBerry-style keyboard.

In fact, it may feel a little too similar to a BlackBerry-style keyboard. In a recent article in PC Magazine, they say:

“The Typo Keyboard is the sort of product that makes you wonder, ‘Why did it take this long?’ Even as demand for keyboarded phones wanes, nearly every one that has come out in the past several years has been a bulky, horizontal slider. Very few have had the traditional slab BlackBerry-style form factor.

“Well, there’s one good reason: lawsuits. BlackBerry has already sued Typo for copying its keyboard design. The uncertainty surrounding the Typo’s ultimate legality has caused a run on supply: The first batch of pre-orders sold out according to a Bloomberg report. “

According to The Boy Genius Report, he likes the keyboard. “Typo is absolutely incredibly amazing. It perfectly mimics the hardware keyboards we were used to over the last 5 to 10 years, and when you think of the engineering that went on to get this entire package working, it’s equally amazing. Typo’s keys offer a satisfying clickity clackity sound, they are well placed, number keys are in a number pad configuration, and there is also a backlight. I can just fly using this keyboard.”

If you are a die-hard BlackBerry fan, you’ll find lots to like in the Ryan Seacrest-backed, Typo ($99 direct).  It looks and feels almost identical to the real thing.

What do you think? Will keyboards get better or will we go back to hard keyboards? Sound off in the comments!


Beats Electronics Gets a Sliver of the Apple Pie

Regaining the ‘cool factor’ is going to cost Apple $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in equity as it acquires Beats Electronics, bringing Beats high-end headphones, music streaming service, and music industry connections into the company. Apple’s purchase of Beats is a big payday for Beats co-founders, music mogul Jimmy Lovine and rap star Dr. Dre. But what’s in it for Apple iPhone and Ipad fans?

The tech giant said it is buying Beats Electronics LLC for $3 billion to bolster a music business that has lost some of its mojo, as streaming-music services encroached on the downloads dominated by Apple’s iTunes service.

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks wears Beats headphones before a preseason football game last August. - John Froschauer/AP

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks wears Beats headphones before a preseason football game last August.
- John Froschauer/AP

According to a recent article written by Sam Sanders for NPR, he reports, “Beats by Dre headphones are flashy, cool, a fashion statement. One critic called them the Air Jordans of headwear. Most reviewers, however, say Beats headphones aren’t actually that good.”

Why would Apple spend $3 billion for this technology, if the audio quality is not great?

Because Apple is more interested in the technology than the sound. Apple wants to make smart headphones with sensors to monitor your temperature, pulse, perspiration; sensors for athletic tracking applications; position sensing to detect when your head is moving; and the ability to give you cues to where things are. It’s sort of like ‘Wii for everyday use.’

It’s much easier for Apple to integrate that new technology with a company like Beats — which already has a big headphone infrastructure — than for the company to build it up from scratch, says Dan Frakes, senior editor of MacWorld.

“They just sort of accelerated the process from the logistical standpoint,” Frakes says, “because now they’ve got the resources to design and produce something.”

The Wall Street Journal adds this,

“Apple will continue to use the Beats brand, a rare move for a company that has almost always focused on its Apple brand. It became one of the world’s largest technology companies by creating huge, new consumer electronics categories with the iPhone and iPad. But it hasn’t introduced a breakthrough product since co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the acquisition will help Apple bridge divides between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.”

A small European company called, Bragi, raised over $3 million in their Kickstarter campaign to make smart wireless earbuds called The Dash. Jim Ninesling, head of U.S. operations for Bragi, explains that smart headphones won’t just monitor things like heart rate — they’ll actually be able to tell what the wearer is doing.  You don’t have to tell it that you’re biking or swimming. It knows by your body movements.

Ninesling says, “People realize smart headphones and other wearable technology — like bracelets that monitor sleep patterns — are going to be big. Speculation is that the wearables industry will exceed $30 billion, Ninesling says. “I’ve heard estimates as high as $50 billion in sales revenues by 2018.”

Cell Phones Are Keeping Us Up At Night

A new research paper written by three business school professors says checking and responding to your phone late at night can seriously disrupt sleep patterns and weaken your performance at work the following day.

The study concludes light released by smartphones contributes to sleep disruption. Light inhibits the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, and using your cell phone late at night has the same effect as using other backlit devices like TVs and tablets – it keeps you awake when you’re ready to go to sleep. They theorize that smartphones make it impossible to detach from work “owing to their invasive, always-on nature.

They ran two studies:

  • In the first study, 82 upper-level managers enrolled in weekend M.B.A. programs, filled out two surveys a day for ten consecutive workdays.
  • In the second study, 161 employees were surveyed twice a day for ten days from a variety of occupations, from paralegals to retail clerks. The second study compared smartphone use to other electronic devices like desktops, tablets and televisions.

Both studies reported when people used their smartphones at night to do business, it cut into their sleep time and sapped their energy the next day in the office. In the second study, they found that smartphones were a bigger drain than more passive electronic devices like tablets or television.

The study is due to appear online in the research journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

According to the study employees should switch off their devices by 9:00 p.m. for a fresh mind the next day. What if your boss insists on emailing and texting you late out night? You could refer him or her to this study to explain checking smartphones after 9:00 pm stresses people out, saps energy, and makes it tough to fall asleep.

If you don’t think that will fly, be prepared with some creative answers why you didn’t pick up your phone:

  • I was at the movies and had to turn off my phone.
  • The whole NSA thing scares the heebie-jeebies out of me.
  • My kids changed my ringtone.
  • I lost my phone and never loaded the “Find My Phone” app.
  • I live on a mountain and we don’t get good reception.
  • I have a bad case of pink eye and couldn’t see the text message.
  • I was driving. You don’t want me to break the law, do you?
  • I was busy in the bathroom.

Of course, if you want to keep your job using your smartphone may be well worth the negative effects on of no sleep. You’ll probably be up all night finishing the report for tomorrow any way.

Autocorrect Fails!

Anyone who has ever texted knows what we are talking about, here – the embarrassment of autocorrect fails.

We have all had them happen, there are even sites dedicated to the fails of autocorrect on our cell phones. Our SEM specialist told us about a Facebook conversation she had with another parent to plan a picnic for the kids.  She didn’t know her friend was using her cell phone to write the message on Facebook. Here is how the conversation went:

facebook message



You can imagine her surprise.  Thankfully she had a full grasp on the English language and understood her friend was bringing fried chicken and not planning on deep-frying five kids in Crisco. Could you imagine if this message had been intercepted on a celebrity’s phone?  Boy, how the press would have a field day with this one. – Brangelina threatens to fry their children for upcoming family picnic.

Here’s another funny chicken autocorrect fail:



There are so many times these message have come across in texts that a simple Google search gives you lots of topics to pick from.  From The 50 funniest, 12 Best, 21 Epic, 15 Painfully Awkward Texts from Mom, Cringeworthy Autocorrects, 20 Most Concerning, and 25 Insanely Funny the list goes on and on.

Bad spellers celebrate the auto-correct feature, but without proper supervision, it can cause some real chaos or at least stir things up in your life. For a complete list of autocorrect fails, check out Damn You Auto Correct — the popular blog dedicated to blasting your texting mistakes – the good, the bad and the ugly across the Internet.

Do you like your autocorrect feature on your phone?  Have you ever gotten embarrassed by it?  Let us know your experiences. Share with us!

To turn off autocorrect on your android phone, follow the steps here, from Wiki.



Watch Out for Cell Phone Snoops!

Lots of people don’t grasp just how much information their phones share about them every minute. Latanya Sweeney, the new chief technology of the Federal Trade Commission, explains how smart phones interface with Wi-Fi in her first article in a planned series of posts. She says:

“Anyone can setup wireless sensors to record the appearance of your phone’s probes to track where you are and where you have been – say, where you are when you’re ambling through the store or mall, or when you’re walking or driving down a street.”

According to a recent article in Forbes written by Adam Tanner, he says this in regard to her post, “The paper discussed how every smart phone contains a unique identifier known as a MAC address that in effect shouts out “I am here” to anyone who has set up the right Wi-Fi receiver technology. Your phone’s MAC address remains the same regardless of the network and transmits even without actually connecting to the Internet.”

What’s the pros for sharing your whereabouts through your phone?

This technology could help loyalty programs and eliminate the need to carry a wallet full of loyalty cards and numbers for your favorite stores, hotels, airlines and more. It can also help stores better lay out their displays based on patterns of customer movement they follow.
Personally, I don’t feel the need to help stores with their marketing. If they want me to help them with their marketing, then hire me. Don’t follow me around lurking in the shadows, recording my every move. What do you do if you feel like me, and the thought makes you uncomfortable?

You have some options.

  • You can turn off your phone or shut off its Wi-Fi capabilities before you get to the store. Once Wi-Fi is off or the phone’s power is off, you won’t be able to use your phone and will need to restore the settings after you leave the store. Sort of defeats the purpose of buying a phone and paying for its service in the first place.
  • AVG Technologies offers a free smartphone app that turns off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to thwart Wi-Fi tracking.
  • Mac Address Ghost is an app that replaces your MAC address with a made-up alternative. This allows you to leave your phone settings untouched while shopping. Your phone still sends Wi-Fi probes, but the MAC address used in the probes is not the one installed on the phone.
  • The Blackphone, advertises itself as “the world’s first smartphone to put privacy and control ahead of everything else.” Its makers plan to unveil it at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb 24.

All of these apps and emerging technologies indicate users are concerned about others snooping on cell phone use and no doubt, more apps and devices will be developed to help take pro-active steps to boost communications security. Bottom line – nobody likes a snoop!

Apple’s New iBeacon Helps Customers Navigate Its Stores

A few weeks ago, we shared how retailers are tracking customers’ routes in their bricks and mortar stores with the mention that Apple would soon launch its new iBeacon shopping technology.

On Friday, December 6, Apple finally released iBeacon message and location services to 254 U.S. retail stores – just in time to catch those shoppers still hunting for the perfect holiday gift. The Los Angeles Times reported that Apple’s New York City flagship store is equipped with 20 iBeacon devices throughout its facility.

Through iBeacon, shoppers can receive different notifications on their smartphones or tablets depending on where they are in the Apple store. For instance, they may get information on a particular product they pass, be asked if they’d like to see if they’re eligible for an upgrade when they walk by iPhones, or get a notice when their order is ready for pickup.

The problem for a retailer like Apple is that customers must configure their iOS devices to receive notifications, pushed out by iBeacon through a Bluetooth connection. This includes downloading the latest Apple Store app. According to TechCrunch, “Every iOS device since the iPhone 4S and iPad 3rd gen is already capable of being either an iBeacon receive or transmitter, as long as it’s properly configured.” It went on to say that almost 250 million iPhones and iPads could be enabled by the end of 2013.

Why iBeacon is not as robust as it could be

The idea behind technology like iBeacon is that it could generate additional sales for a retailer by cross-selling, offering deals and promotions, and luring customers into its store. iBeacon works well for Apple by greeting customers and sharing additional information on products, but at this point, it likely won’t drive greater sales, especially if customers see no value in it.

Wrote Gary Allen of Forbes, “Before the roll-out, one of the most-promoted capabilities of iBeacon was the ability to offer coupons, rebates or price reductions to specific store visitors, based on their location within the store. A shopper in the shoe department might be reminded to buy socks, or would even receive a 10 percent off coupon for socks. At a grocery store, a shopper in the pasta aisle would be directed to the location of spaghetti sauce or French bread, both discounted.”

The problem with this feature for Apple customers is that the company doesn’t offer discounts on its products. The iBeacon can suggest a phone charger or phone cover when someone buys an iPhone, but there’s no additional incentive for the customer to make the purchase. While iBeacon technology could drive more sales at say, a Macy’s or a Best Buy, at Apple, the customer doesn’t get to enjoy the added benefit. And without an incentive, customers are less likely to enable their phones or welcome notifications.

At this point, many retailers have instituted technology-driven shopping tools, such as QR codes and iPad displays. However, Apple is setting the standard by connecting the information directly to customers instead of customers having to be active in the experience. But the iBeacon may have more legs in other retail stores that put an emphasis on sales and promotions.

Smartphones Drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

Retailers like Macy’s, Kmart and Toys“R”Us stirred up controversy this year by opening their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving. While Black Friday is considered the biggest shopping day of the year, they believed they could capture lightning in a bottle by extending offers to the night before.

While the stores were packed, it didn’t equal to a growth in sales. The National Retail Federation found that sales from the four-day shopping bonanza dropped almost $2 billion from the year before. While people still went for the social aspect of holiday shopping, they didn’t necessarily open their wallets as they have in the past.

Yet, the news isn’t all bad for retailers – especially those who have optimized their sites for smartphone use. TechCrunch reported that smartphones drove 25 percent of all online traffic and 7.2 percent of sales on Black Friday. More important, according to Branding Brand, an mobile platform design and development company, smartphone-optimized sites had 76 percent more visits and 187 percent more sales over the same time last year.

“Optimized” is the key word for the smartphone shopping experience. Shoppers want sites that load fast, are easy to navigate with their smartphones, and push notifications about special offers. Yet, too many companies fail to optimize their sites, leading users to head off to their competitors.

In a study from Branding Brand, a sample of 152 of its clients in various industries saw 9,319,715 site visitors on Black Friday and 174,111 online orders placed. The average order value was $93.20, with iOS users spending the most. Branding Brand’s data proves that individuals are becoming more comfortable with shopping through their smartphones.

The trend toward smartphone shopping extended into Cyber Monday as well. IBM Benchmark found that online shopping on Cyber Monday was up 17.5 percent from last year and that mobile devices accounted for 29 percent of all online traffic. Research firm comScore forecast Cyber Monday sales of $2 billion.

For companies like Walmart, mobile-optimized sites have been a game changer for their businesses. Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com told the Associated Press that 2013 is the “tipping point” for mobile shopping. According to the AP, more than half of Walmart.com’s traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday came from mobile devices.

For consumers tired of traffic, crowded malls and frenzied Black Friday mobs, smartphone shopping makes perfect sense. They can easily compare prices, find the best deals, and order gifts anywhere they are. In addition, with many retailers offering free shipping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s simply easier for shoppers to buy online.

With the lower-than-expected sales results on Thanksgiving and Black Friday as well as the increase in online shopping, it will be interesting to see if retailers open up their doors on the holiday again next year. It probably makes more sense to invest that capital into creating better optimized websites and offering online sales that allow savvy shoppers to easily shop all season long.

International Stolen Smartphone Database Launches Days Early

The rise in smartphone theft is continually growing. Every minute of every day, 100 phones are stolen throughout the U.S. According to the New York Attorney General, smartphones were stolen from 1.6 million victims in 2012 alone, costing these individuals billions in replacement fees and possible identity theft. Unfortunately, some victims are losing more than the smartphones – they’re losing their lives over the devices.

In some cases, the thieves use these smartphones for their own personal benefit, but in most instances, they are sold on the lucrative international black market. And once the phones are out of the owners’ hands, so is access to their email, social media accounts, financial accounts, and other private information.

To help combat smartphone theft in the U.S., the top four carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless – met with the FCC, CTIA (the international trade association for the wireless industry) and police chiefs across the U.S. to launch a U.S. stolen smartphone database in April 2012. In November 2013, CTIA took the initiative one step further by releasing a global, multi-carrier, common database for LTE smartphones days ahead of its November 30 deadline.

Through the database, carriers can block activation of 4G and 3G smartphones anywhere in the world. Relying on IMEI serial numbers instead of carrier-controlled SIM cards, the database limits the number of outlets to which thieves can sell these stolen smartphones. Users simply have to report their information to their carrier who will enter it into the database.

The international element

However, the new database depends on collaboration with the international market. Said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent in a press release from the organization, “As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated.”

That international element is a crucial piece that has been missing from the current database and one that is necessary for the initiative to succeed.

“While the U.S. database has been active for a year, New York City officials say it hasn’t made a real dent in smartphone thefts,” reported The Verge. “Since foreign carriers weren’t included in the original effort, organized crime syndicates are literally fronting truckloads of cash to shop stolen smartphones overseas where they can be sold without fear.”

In addition, San Francisco district attorney George Gascón has pointed out that the U.K.’s database has not slowed down smartphone crime in that country.

Gascón, like other attorneys general throughout U.S., is pushing for the smartphone killswitch, which allows a smartphone to be deactivated once stolen. Carriers argue that killswitches allow hackers to disable phones that are currently in use by their owners; Gascón defends his theory that carriers are too worried about the financial hit they would face if customers stopped taking out insurance to cover stolen smartphones.

Even a large chunk of the CTIA press release places the emphasis on customers, rather than the database, urging them to be attentive to their surroundings and purchasing apps that can deter smartphone robberies. Remarked Largent in the release, “We encourage customers to use currently available apps and features that would remotely wipe, track and lock their devices in case they are lost or stolen, and our members are continuing to explore and offer new technologies.”

Since the database is new and not yet proven, it’s important to take Largent’s advice and do everything possible to protect your smartphone and your personal information. One picked pocket or snatched purse and your personal data is in someone else’s hands.