It may sound like science fiction, but if you’ve upgraded your computer within the last 3 years, chances are, you can talk to it and it can talk to you.
Instead of typing in the text, you can simply read or speak into the microphone, and the computer will turn your voice into text. And instead of reading, you can ask the computer to read out the text for you.
As you can imagine, this is outstanding news for learners who prefer to get their information through their ears (auditory learners) as opposed to through their eyes. It’s also good for people who enjoy talking more than they enjoy typing, or whose brain seems to freeze when they are faced with a blank sheet of paper on which to type or write.
Furthermore, it is not necessary to sit in front of the computer when using voice input (yay from all those with aching backs, those who like informal learning areas and those who need mobility when learning difficult concepts). Of course, you must be able to see the monitor to find out whether your words are correctly recognised, but apart from that, you can use voice input while standing, walking or lying down.
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A word of caution about talking computers, though: sometimes we tend to glorify computers and attribute human-like intelligence to them. Not surprisingly then, when it comes to voice input devices, we often have unrealistic expectations. We imagine that the computer will read our minds (“listen to what I think, not to what I say”). Unfortunately, we are still years away from the scenario of talking to our computers the way we would to a fellow human being, one with two ears and a well-trained human brain between them. Also, it may take a few weeks of reading pages of prescribed text to your computer, before it can recognise your particular accent and speech patterns.
You can find out whether your computer is capable of voice input by going to the Control Panel (from the Start menu). If you find a Speech icon, your computer is ready to go!