Will “Voice to Text” ever replace Keyboarding?

03 Jan 2020

Through the past several years, voice-to-text speech recognition software has come a long way. It is now on phones and computers, and seen as a quick and easy way to send a quick message. Will it ever progress to the point that it makes keyboarding obsolete?

The Perfect Scenario

I think most everyone would agree that with today's technology, voice-to-text software isn't quite there yet. I just recently overheard someone here at the office repeat "I will pick it up on the way home" 5 times when trying to text his wife. He admitted that it would have been easier to just type the text rather than try speaking it out several times. So, by today's standard, keyboarding is not obsolete. What if voice to text software was perfect? Would it then overtake typing?

First off, let's figure out what a "perfect" technology would look like:

  1. A perfect technology wouldn't require "training". You would be able to start talking into it and the text it spits out is 100% correct.
  2. A perfect technology would be everywhere. It would be on any device by default, without requiring it to be installed.
  3. A perfect technology would recognize languages, accents, or speech issues. When you are sick, or when someone with broken English is using it, it would convert to text without any issue.
  4. A perfect technology would master commonplace shortcuts. How often are you hitting delete keys, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, arrow keys, page up/down, home and end.

Ultimately, a perfect speech recognition software would be "Star Trek"-like and could do anything and everything asked of it. If this technology existed, would keyboarding then be obsolete?

Problems Speech Recognition Will Not Overcome

There are several glaring issues that speech recognition will not be able to overcome no matter how perfect the technology is. I will admit, if the technology existed, I would use it myself, but keyboarding will still have valuable roles to fulfill.

  • Privacy, Security, Confidentiality. Imagine speaking your passwords in public ("Capital C O O L Capital D U D E 20 10"). Imagine a nurse or doctor speaking out notes about a patient (Can you say HIPAA violation?).
  • Multitasking. How often are you taking a break in typing to say something to a colleague or friend? How often are you on the phone talking with someone and taking notes at the same time? 911 dispatch operators will be talking with 2-3 people at once AND typing notes at the same time.
  • Social etiquette. Imagine a lecture in college where all the students are speaking their notes into their laptops. Imagine a conference scenario where people are trying to send off emails or messages to others. Imagine working in an office setting and everyone is speaking to their computers to write up reports.

 

Voice-to-text software has come lightyears in just the past few years will Google and Cortana listening to you talk. It really is starting to be everywhere, on every computer and phone. It definitely still has a way to go to perfect the technology, but it is getting closer every year. All that being said, there is no way to get rid of the keyboard or typing altogether. Speech recognition will never solve these problems. Keyboarding will remain a very important life skill for decades to come.