CBC Interviews Our Founder On Voice Dictation

CBC Interviews on Voice Recognition.jpg

“OK Google I’m listening”

“Flight to Portland is delayed by 30 minutes”

“Change my dinner reservation for tonight from 7:30-8:00”

In the commercials for Google Home like this one and the Amazon series of Alexa Devices, the people who talk to them are always clearly understood even when they speak quickly.

“Alexa ask Dominos to send me my last order”

“Okay, order placed”

You might think that fast talkers would be more of a challenge but as it turns out in some cases the opposite is true.

“Alexa…What is the Capital of…Canada?”

“I think I missed part of your question, try asking it again.”

“Alexa, what’s the Capital of Canada?”

"Canada's Capital City is Ottawa”

Talking naturally is tip number one when it comes to interacting with these devices, that is according to Shawn Wilkie. He's a software developer who specializes in voice-recognition. He lives in Canada but vacations in Nicaragua, which is where I reached him via Skype.

"Hey this sounds pretty good."

"Good stuff!"

While abroad, Wilkie says he uses voice-recognition on his phone all the time.

“So my Spanish is very broken so in Google Translate there is a new feature, you just flick a button and it listens for both languages at the same time. So if I say "how much" it says “Cuánto cuesta” and the cab driver will say a price “$5” and then I’ll say “okay” and if it says “Bueno” and it listens, then and speaks.

Just like real people, these latest technologies are better at drawing meaning from full sentences rather than individual words so don't slow down.

"It struggles with it because speech recognition nowadays is contextual, so it is looking at the words behind and in front of the words you are saying to make it make sense and it all of a sudden you stop in the middle of a sentence, the contextual part of the speech recognition just fails."

Wilkie says talking naturally is easier with Google Home and Amazon's Alexa because they don't have screens, there is nothing to look at, you have to say what you want and wait to see if you are understood. He said people should apply that same strategy when using a voice to text on their phones.

"Don't look at the screen when you are dictating, dictate freely like you are having a conversation like you and me are right now. Give yourself the ability to complete a thought and then take a look at the screen."

Otherwise Wilkie says people tend to watch to see if each word they are saying is being processed and that slows her speech which makes it harder for the device to understand you. Another tip, be specific;

"Alexa, who is Canada's Prime Minister?"

"The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the crown, chairman of the cabinet..."

"Alexa stop!"

"Alexa, who is Canada's current Prime Minister?"

The current Prime Minister is the Liberal party's Justin Trudeau who was appointed on November 4, 2015."

Sometimes it is just a single missing word that results in a miscommunication. Shawn Wilkie says being unintentionally vague can have real consequences. He told his phone to call a local pizza shop, but wasn't specific about which location. He ended up ordering from the wrong place. So talk normally and be specific and voice-recognition will deliver.

"Alexa repeat after me:
For CBC Radio, I'm Blair Sanderson"

"For C B C radio I'm Blair Sanderson."

ENTREVESTOR: Antigonish firm a world leader in veterinary voice recognition

Shawn Wilkie at his office in Halifax

Shawn Wilkie at his office in Halifax

Not many startups can describe themselves as “profitable” before their third anniversary, but Dragon Veterinary can.

Based in Antigonish, Dragon Veterinary provides voice recognition software for veterinarians. Two years ago, when it was just setting out, the company had no sales, but now the product is being used by about 500 vets around the world. The company has funded this growth with just $135,000 in equity financing and a $100,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and now it is scaling.

“The biggest news from my perspective is that we’ve got a really strong foundation for growth,” said president Shawn Wilkie in an interview Monday. “We’ve got a solid base of private investors. We’ve got some money and we are making money day by day. . . . We’re continuing to enhance our software and helping veterinarians around the world.”

Dragon Veterinary came to life when Wilkie, the founder of Antigonish-based Robotnik, which provides robotics networks, was introduced by Nuance Communications to Brian Poteet, a veterinary radiologist in Houston, Texas. Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance is the global leader in voice recognition software. The company had a voice-to-text product for doctors and wanted to work with Poteet and Robotnik on something similar for the veterinary industry.

Wilkie explained that the technical vocabulary used by veterinarians is so complex and so precise that it’s difficult to produce software that recognizes the words and places them in the proper context. Any vet using standard voice recognition software on their smartphone would have about a 30 per cent accuracy rate, he said. But by using Dragon, which is available for iOS or Android platforms, they can achieve an accuracy rate of more than 95 per cent.

The company — which has offices in Antigonish and at Volta Labs in Halifax — is continually adding to the vocabulary recognized by the system, especially the names of new drugs. Wilkie said the complexity of this vocabulary provides a barrier to entry for any competitors into its business.

The thrust of its sales pitch is that vets save time by using voice recognition software, which means they can increase their billings. And the fact that it’s a mobile app means that animal doctors visiting farms or homes can make notes on site.

The sales strategy relies heavily on trade shows around the world. The company is attending 26 of them this year, and the total budget for them is almost $300,000. But Wilkie says it’s an effective sales strategy in this market.

“We’re going after doctors who are busy and don’t like people showing up at their office trying to sell them something,” said Wilkie. “And they’re required to attend continuing education every year. We thought this was the best chance we have to get in front of them because they all have to attend these conferences.”

Wilkie said the company’s 500 clients are spread across every continent, which provides strong validation for the product. And given that there are about 300,000 veterinarians in the English-speaking world, he believes the company has only scratched the surface of its market.

“We’re kind of just ready to grow,” he said. “I liken it to a race horse that’s been in training for the past couple of years and is now ready to get on the track.”

Peter Moreira is a principal of Entrevestor, which provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups.

Dragon Veterinary Goes Global While Supporting Local

A High Tech Start-Up From Small-Town Nova Scotia is Changing the Way Veterinarians Around the World Practice Medicine

Visit Antigonish.

Visit Antigonish.

ANTIGONISH, Nova Scotia, Oct. 26, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Antigonish based Dragon Veterinary, developer of a speech recognition software vocabulary custom tailored to veterinarians, is pleased to have been a platinum sponsor of the 2017 Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association AGM Weekend.

On the weekend of Oct. 14 veterinarians from across Nova Scotia gathered at the Atlantica Oak Island Resort to share lessons learn, plot a direction for veterinary care in Nova Scotia and catch up on continuing education.

"We're really happy to be part of this," said Dragon Veterinary President Shawn Wilkie.
Dragon Veterinary has become a resident business of the Volta Labs startup hub in Halifax. The non-profit super-hub for technology innovation provides office space, legal and human resources support to progressive startups like Dragon Veterinary. In addition, Dragon Veterinary head office is in Antigonish.

This year Dragon Veterinary is taking its voice recognition software vocabulary to over 26 tradeshows from Europe, to Australia and the United States. "It's just growing exponentially," Wilkie said about the expansion.

It hasn't even been two years since Dragon Veterinary unveiled its voice recognition software vocabulary specifically tailored to veterinarians and designed to work hand in glove with existing practice management software's on the market. Dragon Veterinary now has customers on every continent. The Dragon Veterinary software is compatible with Dragon® Medical Practice Edition 2 speech recognition software.

Dragon Medical Practice Edition 2 and Dragon Veterinary help veterinarians navigate and dictate medical decision-making and treatment plans into their Veterinary Management Software of choice.
Recently Dragon Veterinary unveiled their Android and IOS compatible app - allowing vets to fill out patient forms, answer emails and attend to their practice's paperwork hands-free while away from the office.

"Anytime I would be going to a keyboard, I will turn to the microphone on and use that instead," said Dr. Eamon Draper, a Bedford, Nova Scotia, veterinary surgeon who uses Dragon Veterinary. "I'm on top of my records better and it means I tend to have them more finished by the end of the day."

Dragon Veterinary has teamed up with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to continue improving its technology and expanding its reach to more customers. ACOA is providing a $100,000 interest-free loan to match the $125,000 Dragon Veterinary has raised from private investors. For Wilkie, being able to partner with government agencies not just to access capital but for guidance has been one of the advantages to growing a tech start-up in Nova Scotia.

"Just one example would be when we were going to London for a trade show. The day before the show we realized in true start-up fashion we didn't have a visa and had no idea about the laws and legislation when it came to a Canadian company doing business in the UK. We called Nova Scotia Business Inc. and within 15 minutes we were on the phone with a development officer who had tonnes of experience in the UK and could tell us exactly what we needed to know."

Another advantage to doing business in Nova Scotia has been quality of life. Dragon Veterinary, says Wilkie, is further proof that high tech can be done in rural Nova Scotia just as easily as it can be done in this continent's urban centres where both the beach and a sense of community seem so far away.