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Desktop Testing Tactics

We had 3 audiences in mind in designing the ways in which we tested these continuous speech dictation products:

  • the possibly computer phobic executive
  • the support team which would function as a help desk for an installation just rolling out many copies of this software to a large population
  • web developers

This focus caused us to heavily emphasize the importance of human factors in the design of these products. Be sure to see our general test criteria outlined in the section How We Test and the specific tests for desktop products elsewhere on the site.

We broke down the tests into these major areas:

  • installation and initial training
  • dictation into the supplied word processing applet
  • behavior of the text-to-speech function
  • sophistication of the voice macro capability
  • integration with other applications
  • capabilities of the hand-held mobile transcription device (palm recorder)

We were also interested in understanding the difference that CPU speed might make in the performance of these products. So we tested two configurations:

  • a 450 MHz Pentium III having 128 MB of RAM (the "fast machine")
  • a 233 MHz Pentium MMX with 64 MB of RAM (the "slow machine")

The "slow machine" was within the minimum specification for these products. We used an Andrea NC61 microphone. We will be testing other microphones, especially the newer desktop ones, throughout the year.

Although all the products promise integration with popular word processors and spreadsheets, we were more interested in seeing how the products behaved in areas where nothing was promised but where our audience might have reasonable expectations. These tests included:

  • AOL Instant Messenger, the online chat program
  • Netscape Navigator and e-mail
  • English Wizard, a data base query facility which allows you to ask English language questions to any data base
  • Macromedia's Dreamweaver web page builder combined with Allaire's Homesite HTML editor

Our tests of voice macro capability was designed to explore part of the magic of speech recognition - the capacity to extend its command-and-control capabilities over other areas of the desktop besides dictation. To test this we tried several macros, the most complicated of which was a parameter driven macro designed to start Netscape Messenger e-mail program with a specific person's e-mail address.



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Page Last Updated: 02/28/00