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Type by Speaking on an Apple iPad

Updated on November 29, 2015
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree and applies his professional insight to analyze products and share reviews with tips and advice.

Press the Microphone key on Apple iPad's virtual keyboard and it types what you say.
Press the Microphone key on Apple iPad's virtual keyboard and it types what you say. | Source

With the Apple iPad you can write emails, fill in text fields, and even write articles by talking. The Apple iPad (version 3) uses Siri for speech recognition. Siri automatically converts your speech to text as you talk.

The virtual keyboard on the iPad has a key with a microphone icon on it. When you press that key you can speak and it will type for you.

Siri Speech Recognition is similar to Dragon Naturally Speaking. And it even uses the same spoken commands, such as "period" - "comma" - "new paragraph" - and so on.

The Siri tool for search that you may be familiar with on the iPhone is also now included on the iPad with the latest upgrades to iOS.

Speech recognition is amazing! It allows me to write more often, and to write from my mind without having to waste time typing.

I was curious to see if I end up saying different things than I would have if I had typed. I tried a few different experiments before writing (speaking) this one. But I found it difficult to think and speak at first. It’s weird, because I do it all the time talking with friends and customers. I was wondering why I found this to be so much different.

The Human Brain Handles 'Typing' Very Differently Than 'Speaking'

What I discovered was an interesting phenomenon about how the human brain handles both typing and speaking very differently.

When I first tried writing an article by speaking, something got in the way. My brain was wired differently for verbal creative work.

I thought that maybe creativity comes through my fingers, not my mouth. But that’s not right either. I checked. I asked some friends if they thought I spoke creatively. Either they didn’t understand the question and thought I meant something else. Or they got what I was asking and knew the answer. Either way, I received a confirmation on my oral creativity.

So here I am, speaking to my iPad. After several attempts I think I’ve got the hang of it. It just took some rewiring of my brain cells by doing it a few times with Siri.

I discovered that I had a lot of trouble focusing and expressing my thoughts. That's funny, because I never have trouble writing when I type, or speaking to people.

What I came to realize is that our brain works differently when we speak compared to when we type or write.

I discovered that it's very difficult to write an article simply by speaking to my iPad.

You would think it's a lot easier because you don't have to bother typing. You just let the device do the typing for you. But that's not so.

In my experience, even though the iPad allows me to speak to type, I still had trouble writing by speaking. Even now I still have some difficulty keeping focused. I am finding that it gets easier to speak an article as I practice.

You can believe me when I tell you that I had to edit this article after speaking it. But I did discover a trick that makes it easier. That is to speak-type, as I call it.

It's Very Important to Proofread Your Speech-to-Text

You've got to be careful with letting Siri type for you though. Once in a while she may type some silly things by misunderstanding what you said. I learned that I need to double check it by reading it back before posting. Nevertheless, the process is a lot quicker and easier than typing.

For example, I recently was posting to the forum and I wanted to praise someone for something she had said. I spoke the post on my iPad. I said..

"Your idea is even better than mine."

But Siri typed...

"Your right ear is even better than mine."

If I would not have caught that, nobody would've understood what I was trying to say.

Another time, when I read an interesting post in the forum that I felt could be the makings of a great Hub, I posted back, "You should write a hub about that." But I spoke it to let Siri type it for me. And she typed, "You should right a hub about that."

She usually gets the spelling right since she seems to know what word is meant by the context it's used in. But not always.

I decided to try an experiment with speaking the following sentence...

"How do you recognize speech?"

Siri thought I was saying...

"How do you wreck a nice beach?"

She usually does a lot better than that, unless you ask her how to recognize speech. Then she gets all awkward and fumbled over the question. Maybe she wants to keep it a secret.

Double checking SIri's typing is just as important as checking our own typing for errors. Problem is that sometimes when I read back what Siri typed, it is such a derangement of what I said that I can't always remember what I originally was thinking when I said it.

It's a Weird Feeling at First Typing by Speaking

Speaking to people In a crowd is easier than dictating to a computer.
Speaking to people In a crowd is easier than dictating to a computer. | Source

I realized that when I speak to friends I have no problem talking. So why did I have trouble writing articles by speaking to the iPad?

A friend of mine explained this phenomenon very well. He said, "There are different pathways through the brain to control the fingers and to control speaking with our mouth."

I found a solution. I have to imagine that the iPad is a person. By doing this I forced my brain to use the same pathways that are being used when I speak to people in public or to friends over the phone.

It works. But then another problem arose -- I make a lot of mistakes when I talk.

People usually don't catch it when they listen, mainly because the human brain corrects errors automatically. Have you ever had the experience where you catch yourself saying something incorrectly, and as soon as you say it again your listener responds with the comment, "I knew what you meant."

That's either because they really did know what you meant and didn't need to correct you, or they didn't hear what you said wrong because their brain let them hear what you really meant.

The point I'm making is that when we speak we make mistakes but when we type, we somehow pay more attention to what we're saying.

So what do I do about it now that I'm writing an article by speaking? Well, I pause a lot and review each paragraph step-by-step. And then I either switch to the keyboard and type in some corrections or simply speak a new paragraph. (I had to type that last part because when I say “new paragraph” Siri takes me literally and skips a blank line to start a new paragraph). That's another problem!

Command Confusion

If you knew what I'm going through with “command confusion”, you would laugh. That’s a term I came up with. Keywords that happen to be commands can confuse the issue.

For example, when I want to use the word "period" in a sentence rather than placing a period at the end of the sentence, I need to say "period" twice. Siri will recognize that as meaning that I want the word. The same goes for all other marks, such as a comma, quote, etc. Sometimes it’s easier just to switch to the keyboard and type, as I did with this paragraph.

There are other commands that can be said as well. I already mentioned about saying "new paragraph" when you want to start a new paragraph, and Siri will space down two spaces. But if you say "new line" then it will only space down one space.

Some Editing is Required

If you're wondering if I had any trouble with the last paragraph, trying to get Siri to type things that are commands, you bet I did. I had to go back and do some old-fashioned editing on the iPad's keyboard to get all that correctly typed.

With all this nonsense going on that we need to think about while we're speaking, it kind of distracts us from the main thought we're trying to express.

Nevertheless, when you have some thoughts that you want to express fast, it's a useful tool to get it typed quickly. I will continue to use it -- at least for writing segments of articles or for notes to use later. And it's great for writing short emails.

© 2012 Glenn Stok


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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

      I occasionally write using my Dragon Naturally Speaking application., and have seen the things you mention. I have to be very mindful of what I am saying, and pauses between speaking sentences are common.

      One thing i found it incredibly useful for, is transcribing written work. I had many,many, many pages of childhood memories written by my husband in longhand on paper tablets. He wanted to have them typed-- and I am ,by no means, a touch typist. That's when I decided to get the Dragon software-- which made the process so much easier, by just reading and making some minor edits.

      I enjoyed reading about your experiences-- and I think speaking to your iPad would be easier then trying to type on the tiny keypad.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Neither my iPhone or iPad are up-to-date with the Siri technology, but I do use Dragon on them. I think when we type, our brains have more time to process. I do love using Dragon for notes, though. I can speak them as soon as I think them. I am terrible about keeping a notepad with me. Dragon saves me from that.

      As soon as the technology recognizes pauses and tones, we will have it made. I have written one article with Dragon, and I loved it. It definitely makes you a better proofreader. :-)

      I love the hub and am jealous of your up-to-date technology. :-) Votes and shared!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Sholland10, you said it better than me. Our brains have more time to process when we type. Yeah, that's it! Nevertheless I am speaking this answer to your comment right now. I do find it useful for short segments of text. But I do have difficulty writing entire hubs by speaking. Thanks so much for your insightful comment and thanks for stopping by and for the votes.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Glenn, Great Hub. Ever since sholland mentioned Dragon in a Hub of hers I have been thinking about this.

      I think a lot of this has to do with training. Inexperienced public speakers say, 'umm', or 'you know', etc. a lot. Polished speakers do not. Public speaking courses often tape or video students so they can hear and see what they sound and look like.

      Also, like Jim, I wonder how people that do a lot of dictation, such as doctors or executives, would do with this? They are used to thinking and speaking like you mention in your Hub. Although, their documents are usually transcribed not typed directly from spoken word (but this could be changing to direct transcription with voice recognition programs). I do think the transcriptionists smooth a lot of the dictations out. They convert the brain to mouth thought patterns to brain to finger patterns. I have dictated documents and when I listen to the recording, they sound goofy, but the typed documents seem good (thanks to a professional transcriptionist).

      Doctors also use templates for commonly dictated documents so the transcriptionist only has to recognize the words specific to that patient. Not sure where this would fit in to dictating a Hub.

      By the way, I typed this.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      well you captivated me with this article so well done on your speak-writing. Almost as difficult as me typing this holding my 4 month old baby...not easy.

      I have to admit I haven't owned an ipad and had no idea they had that feature. I was about to buy a program (dragon) that does the same thing so this topic interests me. I have arthritis in my hands so this is a great investment for me. However, I have tried speaking into a small tape recorder to get thoughts and ideas out of my head and to write on later, but it is not the same at all. I write entirely different than I speak, but I will still consider something like this.

      Very useful hub!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      bankscottage, that was a very enlightening comment that you made. I don't think that transcriptionists will ever be replaced. Just as you explained in your comment, they can do things that computerized speech recognition cannot do. I always have to proofread what was typed and make corrections. The nice thing about Siri on the Apple iPad is that it underlines words that it didn't know for sure if it got right. I find it very interesting that it has that capability to know that there's a possibility of an error. When I click on an underlined word it gives me other possible words and one of them is usually the right one. I don't think that a doctor dictating patient records will want to put up with that. They probably just want to keep talking and let the transcriptionist be responsible for typing everything accurately.

      By the way I'm using my iPad right now and I spoke this answer to your comment. And yes I had to go back and correct a few words. But it got the hard ones right!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Izettl, you gave me an idea for another hub. A comparison of dictating software versus recording into a tape recorder or MP3 player. Recording into a player is almost the same as speaking to another person because you can just keep talking as your thoughts come to your head. But when you're using speech recognition you have to stop every few sentences for it to catch up. That kind of breaks the train of thought. And I've noticed that I say things differently when I use speech recognition on the iPad compared to when I'm simply typing. Come to think of it I realize that's what you said. So I guess we're in agreement. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 23 months ago

      Just browsing your hubs and this caught my attention. I have a speech impairment, where I do not pronounce all sounds clearly, thus leaving the impression with some that I am not all there. I have tried several devices, and none have worked. More importantly, I can type faster than I can talk, so I will stick with the keyboard. For some people who are unable to type, the devices you describe are invaluable. As a former news reporter, I pretty much learned to type the same way I thought. That does not work in all cases. I have no other point to make other than it was an interesting hub.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 23 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Larry Wall - Despite what you said, speech recognition is not perfect. Even with perfect pronunciation, the iPad seems to have a mind of it's own. I have to be very careful and check that what was typed is what I said. Sometimes it changes words to something that may have sounded like what I said, but completely different. Sometimes it's so different that it would have been embarrassing if I hadn't caught it.

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