The Disadvantages of Voice Recognition Software

By Carol Finch

Voice recognition software turns speech into text -- you talk into the system and it transcribes what you say. This is useful for people with visual impairments and those with physical problems that make typing on a keyboard difficult. Others may use a system because they find talking easier than typing or simply because it's fun. Voice recognition technology is not perfect, however, and comes with a few disadvantages.

Lack of Accuracy and Misinterpretation

Voice recognition software won't always put your words on the screen completely accurately. Programs cannot understand the context of language the way that humans can, leading to errors that are often due to misinterpretation. When you talk to people, they decode what you say and give it a meaning. Voice recognition software can do this but may not be capable of choosing the correct meaning. For example, it cannot always differentiate between homonyms, such as "their" and "there." It may also have problems with slang, technical words and acronyms.

Time Costs and Productivity

You might think that computerizing a process speeds it up, but this isn't necessarily true of voice recognition systems, and you may have to invest more time than you expected into the process. You'll have to factor in time to review and edit to correct errors. Some programs adapt to your voice and speech patterns over time; this may slow down your workflow until the program is up to speed. You'll also have to learn how to use the system. For example, you must find the right pace and tone -- if you talk too fast or indistinctly, you'll increase spelling and grammar errors. Getting used to using a system's commands and speaking punctuation out loud is not always easy. This can affect the flow and speed of your speech.

Accents and Speech Recognition

Voice recognition systems can have problems with accents. Even though some may learn to decode your speech over time, you have to learn to talk consistently and clearly at all times to minimize errors. If you mumble, talk too fast or run words into each other, the software will not always be able to cope. Programs may also have problems recognizing speech as normal if your voice changes, say when you have a cold, cough, sinus or throat problem.

Background Noise Interference

To get the best out of voice recognition software, you need a quiet environment. Systems don't work so well if there is a lot of background noise. They may not be able to differentiate between your speech, other people talking and other ambient noise, leading to transcription mix-ups and errors. This can cause problems if you work in a busy office or noisy environment. Wearing close-talking microphones or noise-canceling headsets can help the system focus on your speech.

Physical Side Effects

If you use voice recognition technology frequently, you may experience some physical discomfort and vocal problems. Talking for extended periods can cause hoarseness, dry mouth, muscle fatigue, temporary loss of voice and vocal strain. The fact that you aren't talking naturally may make this worse and you may need to learn how to protect your voice if you'll use a program regularly.