Science Fiction, Speech Recognition, and Finale

Last week my wife, a director of nursing at a major medical institution, came home jazzed about new technologies in health care. She had just seen a demonstration of voice recognition technology that allows nurses to literally “talk to the walls” rather than hand-charting their patient evaluations and updates.

As she described the demonstration, I was transported back nearly twenty years ago when voice recognition technology began to first reach home computer users. The dream was to control your computer by voice command, ala Start Trek. (I am reminded of Scotty’s scene in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” where he picks up the mouse and begins talking into a Mac SE30. When he realizes he has to still TYPE in his commands, he says, “Oh, how quaint!”)

In the early 1990s, the leader in voice recognition was Articulate Systems. At this time Finale and Articulate Systems did many events together where their voice recognition software was demonstrated in use with Finale. Among the venues were MacWorlds, Gand Music Tech Expos, and NAMM conventions.

I recall one specific NAMM show meeting where this combination was demonstrated to great effect by my friend, Christopher Yavelow, a gifted composer and author widely known for his keen insight on the future of music and computers.

Chris got up in front of a large group of music dealers and said; “Open Finale,” and it opened!

“Under STAFF go to Add Staves. Type 3.” Sure enough, Finale added 3 staves! In fact, Finale did whatever he told it to do. (As is sometimes the case with new technology, the trick in demonstrating it was to focus on what it did rather than what it didn’t do.)

At the end of his demo, Chris shouted; “ERASE HARD DRIVE,” then quickly added “Stop!”

This got a big laugh.

Well, here it is 2010, and most of us aren’t using voice recognition with our music applications. I don’t know if this is because the technology simply didn’t advance as quickly as we would have liked, or if voice recognition simply isn’t all that practical for mainstream use. 

Kids of my generation were promised all kinds of technology that similarly never materialized as we imagined, and this is a subject of Daniel Wilson’s book “Where’s My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived.”

I recall hearing a piece about the book on NPR, but have yet to read it. Have you? Let me know what you think of the book, voice recognition software, or anything else tangentially related to Finale by clicking on “Comments” below.

In the meantime I’m still dreaming of the day when I can tell Finale to “Compose music in the style of Igor Stravinsky — his early period.”

Ah well, a guy can dream.

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