Bluetooth Dictates to Desktops

Here's a common misstatement: It is not possible to use Bluetooth headsets with desktop dictation.

I had heard this statement so often I nearly believed it. Then I remembered that before desktop dictation software had a built-in mobility feature, everyone said that it was impossible too, but I was using a DAT recorder with excellent results. Before acquiescing to the masses that insisted Bluetooth isn't compatible with desktop dictation software, I decided to challenge conventional wisdom.

Using a notebook computer with a 2.00 GHz duo-core processor, 512 MB RAM, a 100-GB hard drive with plenty of free space and Dragon NaturallySpeaking Legal v. 8.10, I tested three Bluetooth headsets: the GN Netcom GN6210, the Jabra JX10, and the Plantronics Voyager 510.

A separate speech profile was created for each headset and the same three documents were read two times into each profile. The first document consisted of 277 words, with only one specialty word - a company name. The second document, 125 words, used only general terminology and the third document, 187 words, included three legal citations.

GN Netcom GN6210

The GN Netcom GN6210, which fits behind the ear, had a speech-to-noise ratio of 17. Enrollment took 12 minutes. Manufacturer specifications list the unit as having a 33-foot range and up to eight hours of talk time. The GN6210 comes with the base charger and a small travel charger. Its suggested retail price is $199.99. The recognition using the GN6210 seemed to be the best overall, both in terms of initial accuracy and improvement after use.

Jabra JX10

The Jabra JX10 weighs less than an ounce and uses DSP technology. It can be charged using an AC adapter or from the PC using a USB cable. The USB feature is convenient for dictators who travel, but the JX10, even though it had a speech to noise ratio of 16, required 17 minutes to complete the enrollment. This headset was the most frustrating to enroll and the accuracy never reached the same level as the other two microphones. This may improve over time but the results were disappointing. The JX10's suggested retail price is $179.00 and provides up to six hours of talk time.

Plantronics Voyager 510

With a speech-to-noise ratio of 15, it took 11 minutes to complete the enrollment with this microphone. The Voyager 510, with up to six hours of talk time, has a suggested retail price of $99.95.

The Bottom Line

Many of us enjoy the freedom of dictating using cordless microphones but these microphones tend to have large base stations and they still need to be plugged into the computer's USB port, making them difficult to use on the go. Switching from 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz technology to Bluetooth offers added flexibility, because—although Bluetooth microphones still require charging—the charging units are smaller, lighter, and easier to transport.

Of the three Bluetooth microphones tested, the GN Netcom and Plantronics microphones offered the best recognition overall, with 96.6 percent and 95.9 percent recognition respectively, compared to 93.6 percent using the Jabra.

Don't let the audio setup scare you away from using a Bluetooth microphone. While the initial training can be tedious, Dragon adapts so quickly that investing some extra time to train the software can pay dividends in the long run by offering a comfortable, small-footprint, wireless solution.

One of my clients just left for Europe to dictate his next novel. I sent him off with a Bluetooth microphone. Why? Because Bluetooth works with desktop dictation software.


is the president of Computer Talk (www.comptalk.com), a consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of speech recognition and other hands-free technology services. She can be reached at (888) 999-9161 or contactus@comptalk.com.


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