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Digital dictation is a method of recording and editing the spoken word in real-time. The recording is done by the use of a digital recorder. Digital recorders are lighter, have a longer battery life and are able to record for a lot longer utilizing the same media, as compared to analog tape based dictation machines. The files generated with digital recorders vary in size, depending on the manufacturer and the format the user chooses. The most common file formats that digital recorders generate have one of the extensions WAV, WMA or MP3. True dictation machines record in the DSS and DS2 format.
The DSS and DS2 file formats compress audio allowing for greater portability. In some cases, speech is recorded where sound quality is paramount and transcription unnecessary, e.g. for broadcasting a theatre play; such recording uses techniques closer to high-fidelity music recording, rather than those discussed here.
Digital dictation offers several advantages over traditional cassette tape based dictation:
- The user can instantly rewind or fast forward to any point within the dictation file to review or edit.
- The random access ability of digital audio allows inserting audio at any point without overwriting the following text.
- Dictation produces a file which can be transferred electronically, e.g. via WAN, LAN, USB, e-mail, telephony, BlackBerry, FTP, etc.
- Large dictation files can be shared with multiple typists.
- Sound may be CD quality and can improve transcription accuracy and speed.
- Digital dictation provides the ability to report on the volume or type of dictation and transcription outstanding or completed within an organization.
Dictation audio can be recorded in various audio file formats. Most digital dictation systems use a lossy form of audio compression based on modelling of the vocal tract to minimize hard disk space and optimize network utilization as files are transferred between users. (Note that WAV is not an audio encoding format, but a file format and has little or no bearing on the encoding rate (kbit/s), size or audio quality of the resulting file.)
Digital dictation is different from speech Recognition where audio is analyzed by a computer using speech algorithms in an attempt to transcribe the document. With digital dictation the process of converting digital audio to text may be done using digital transcription software, typically controlled by a foot switch which allows the transcriber to PLAY, STOP, REWIND, and BACKSPACE.
These days there are Digital Transcription Kits that allow integration with Speech Recognition Software. This gives the typist the option to either type a document manually, or send a document to be converted to text by Software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Portable, hand held, digital recorders are the modern replacement for analog handhelds. Digital portables allow transfer of recordings by docking or plugging into a computer. Digital recorders eliminate the need for cassette tapes. Professional digital hand held recorders are available with slide switch, push button, fingerprint locking, and barcode scanning options.
Another common way to record digital dictation is with a computer dictation microphone. There are several different types of computer dictation microphones available, but each one has similar features and operation. Olympus Direct Rec, Philips SpeechMike, and Dictaphone Powermic are all digital computer dictation microphones that also feature push button control for operating dictation or speech recognition software. The dictation microphone operates through a USB port on the computer it is used with.
Call-in Dictation System
Call in dictation systems allow one to record their dictations over the phone. With call in dictation systems the author dials a phone number, enters a PIN and starts dictating. Touch tone controls allow for start, pause, playback, and sending of dictation audio file. The call in dictation systems usually feature a Pod that can be plugged into a phone line. The pod can then be plugged into a computer to store dictation audio recording in compatible transcription or management software.
Currently there are several digital dictation applications available for mobile phones. With mobile dictation apps, one can record, edit, and send dictation files over networks. Wireless transfer of dictation files decreases turnaround time. Mobile dictation applications allow users to stay connected to dictation workflows through a network, such as the Internet.
Types of software
There are two types of digital dictation software:
- Standalone digital sound recording software: Basic software whereby the audio is recorded as a simple file. Most digital sound recording applications are designed for individuals or a very small number of users, as they do not offer a network efficient way of transferring the audio files other than email, they also do not encrypt or password protect the audio file
- Digital dictation workflow software: Advanced software for commercial organizations where audio is still played by a typist but the audio file can be securely and efficiently transferred. The workflow element of these advanced systems also allows users to share audio files instantly, create virtual teams, outsource transcription securely, and set up confidential send options or 'ethical walls'. Digital Dictation workflow software is normally Active Directory integrated and can be used in conjunction with document, practice or case management systems. Typical businesses using workflow software are law firms, healthcare organizations, accountancies, or surveying firms.