Recorder eases remote dictation

If you'd rather talk than type your memos, take a look at the Olympus DS-3000 digital voice recorder. This slim, light unit is somewhat pricey at $400, but it is so easy to use and so well-integrated with the desktop that for those looking for a dictation solution, it may well be worth the cost.

The DS-3000, which weighs in at only 3 ounces even when fully loaded with two triple-A batteries, is light enough for the road. And the slim device — measuring 4.3 by 2 by 0.7 inches — is small enough to fit comfortably in your shirt pocket.

The unit comes bundled with Olympus' DSS Player software for managing audio files on the computer. DSS Player makes it a snap to download files from the DS-3000. In fact, all it takes to move files to the computer is to plug the DS-3000 into a USB port, and the files will automatically be copied to the computer and deleted from the DS-3000. You can, of course, configure the device to retain copies of the files on the DS-3000.

DSS Player also integrates with IBM Corp.'s ViaVoice speech-recognition software. Highlight a voice file in DSS Player, then select Voice Recognition from the menu bar. The program will automatically open ViaVoice's SpeakPad and perform the recognition.

However, we were not impressed with the accuracy of the voice recognition we encountered. After spending a couple of hours training the ViaVoice software, we were able to achieve a relatively high level of accuracy when dictating directly to the software using the provided headset. But the level of accuracy was far reduced when we tried to do voice recognition on files downloaded from the DS-3000. In fact, there was enough garble that we found the system to be inadequate for dictation unless the user takes great care to speak slowly and to enunciate very, very clearly.

This doesn't mean that the DS-3000 isn't a useful tool for remote dictation. Although you may find the voice recognition to be inadequate, the DS-3000 still offers a number of advantages for manual transcription. First, transcribing from digital files using DSS Player is a lot easier than transcribing analog recordings on a microcassette recorder. Rewind and fast-forward functions are available without having to lift your hand from the mouse. And you can even adjust the playback speed to suit your typing efficiency.

Additionally, you can insert up to 16 index marks into each file, making it a snap to locate passages later. You can also buy optional transcription equipment that will let you use foot switches for controlling the recording.

The DS-3000 stores files on removable SmartMedia cards, which can even be interchanged between the recorder and Olympus digital cameras. The 16M card that comes with the DS-3000 provides 2 hours and 35 of minutes of recording in standard mode, or 5 hours 20 minutes in long-play mode. A 64M card offers about 10 hours of recording time in standard mode.

Although we wish that voice-recognition technologies were further along than they are, even if you never use the recognition capabilities with the DS-3000, you'll still find it a welcome advance in remote dictation.


Olympus DS-3000 Digital Voice Recorder

Score: B+

Olympus America Inc.
(800) 622-6372

Pricing and availability: The street price is $400.

Remarks: The DS-3000 digital voice recorder from Olympus, when combinedwith DSS Player software for the desktop, offers the best remote dictationsolution we've seen. The unit also integrates with IBM's ViaVoice speech-recognitionsoftware.


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