Esquire enhances remote deposition technology

jcr-publications_high-resEsquire Deposition Solutions, based in Atlanta, Ga., announced in a press release issued Feb. 7 that it has significantly enhanced the technology it uses in all of its offices to support the growing demand for remote depositions services.

Read more.

TechLinks: Windows 10 and securing your network

TechLinks_logoThe NCRA Technology Committee offered some updates on Windows 10 and keeping your network secure.

“Encryption … [is] about protecting your sensitive data in case you ever lose your PC, which is something everyone needs,” reminds an article on How-To Geek. The article offers tips on how to make sure the Windows 10 system works for you.

Another tech-savvy website, MakeUseOf, offers a list of the seven top firewall programs to consider for your computer’s security.

A Jan. 20 article on TechConnect showcases a few of the new features planned for the Windows 10 Creators Update, coming this spring.

Finally, because everyone needs a laugh now and then, the committee offered a few funny memes on BoredPanda.com for readers’ amusement.

 

New webinar addresses data backup solutions and practices

NCRA’s Education Department has announced a new webinar that will address the importance of securing confidential electronic documents and backing up data systems, and will provide best practices for protecting data.

According to presenter Daniel Bistany, a co-founder and chief technology officer of Breeze IT, a managed-services provider and value-added reseller based in Costa Mesa, Calif., organizations in all industries are now storing confidential electronic documents, capturing increasing amounts of data, and amassing video, social media, and resource-intensive files. As a result, secure backup and recovery systems have become a business imperative.

Bistany, who believes a service-centric approach to business and partnerships is key to success, will share how Breeze IT’s culture is built around a personal, value-based approach that supports clients by giving them the highest level of service and a superior customer experience.

The one-hour seminar is on Feb. 23 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. ET, at a cost of $79. Attendees can earn 0.1 CEU.

Bistany graduated from the University of Arizona magna cum laude and earned a degree in economics with an emphasis in mathematics.

Breeze IT is recognized by leading industry publications as one of the CRN Next-Gen 250, and has been ranked #5 on the CRN Fast Growth 150 for 2014 and The INC 5000 for 2016. The company also ranked on Orange County’s List of Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2015 and 2016.

For more information or to register, visit NCRA’s webinar library.

TechLinks: Keeping organized with technology

TechLinks_logoIf one of your 2017 resolutions is to get more organized, the NCRA Technology Committee has your back.

A trio of tips from makeuseof.com offers strategies to reach inbox zero with your gmail account, use the camera on your iPhone to manage your life and help you remember things, and use Google calendar more efficiently.

A Jan. 10 article from Inside Counsel offers information about three startups that help manage your calendar. While originally written for lawyers, it is easily adaptable for court reporters.

Keep in mind that Acrobat Pro DC allows users to scan or snap a photo of a paper document, then edit the graphics or text with fonts that match the original, which keeps you organized wherever you are.

Tools of the Trade

Here are the answers to the questions court reporters and captioners most want to ask about the steno machines on the market.

Passport Touch Manufactured by Advantage Eclipsecat.com / 800-800-1759 Specifi cations: Width: 9.75 inches Depth: 10.5 inches Height: 4 inches Weight: 5.2 pounds, including battery

Is your system wired or wireless, or can it be either?

Both wired and wireless.

What CAT systems work with your writer?

The Passport Touch is compatible with all CAT software.

What dictionary types can be imported?

Eclipse and RTF.

What translate function does it o­ffer?

The Passport Touch includes a patented automatic rewriter that allows you to adjust your keys after the job, and apply those adjustments to jobs that have already been written for improved translation.

What is the size of the display?

7-inch capacitive HD touch screen.

What is the range of key adjustability?

Measuring from the home row (SKWR-RBGS), the minimum depth of stroke is 0.5 mm ( 2⁄100 in.), and the maximum depth of stroke is 13 mm ( 1⁄2 in.). Depth of stroke and tension are finely geared and continuously adjustable for ease of operation and fine-tuning.

The Passport Touch features patented, user-adjustable vowel and StenoMagic keys.

The anti-stacking, anti-splitting, shadow-tracking, and key-position scanning on the Passport Touch are patented. Anti-stacking is adjustable from 0 to 100. Shadow-tracking can be turned on or off.

Can the display be changed?

Yes. The Passport Touch includes a full-featured capacitive touch screen with a myriad of display options. The patent-pending hideaway display disappears into the writer when you don’t need it. A built-in tablet stand is available when the display is open.

Does it o­ffer any audio features? If so, what are they?

Yes. The Passport Touch has a built-in microphone, a microphone port, a headphone port, and a monitoring mode. A large number of context-sensitive tutorial videos with sound are also integrated into the machine.

What is the battery life?

Battery life is dependent primarily upon screen brightness. At medium brightness, you can expect about 12 hours per charge.

Does the keyboard allow modifications?

Yes. The height of the vowel keys and StenoMagic keys in relation to the other keys is user-adjustable. There is no need to send the machine in to change those. The vowel keys have three positions: traditional, mid-height, and the same plane as the other keys. Mid-height is the most popular setting. The StenoMagic keys have two positions: low when you want them out of the way, and in the same plane as the other keys for easy bridging.

The machine can be ordered with traditional asterisk and initial S keys, or with split asterisk and initial S keys for additional flexibility. All the standard wide-key options are available, plus a wide initial S key (recommended) to allow easy bridging with the StenoMagic keys.

What backups are provided?

The writer has 32 GB of internal memory. It has an external micro-SD slot, plus two USB ports. The internal memory, external micro-SD card, and one USB port are written to in realtime for backup purposes.

In addition to the standard data (steno, English, and audio), raw steno fi les are also backed up. (Raw steno fi les are much larger than standard steno fi les and are what make it possible for users to adjust their keys after jobs have ended, apply the readjusted values to jobs they have already written, and retranslate the jobs using the new adjustments.)

Additional comments: The Passport is customizable with more than 100 different skins available.

Lightspeed Zenith Manufactured by Stenovations Stenovations.com / 800-626-7228 Specifications: Width: 12.5 inches Depth: 7.5 inches Height: 0.5 inches Weight: 2.0 pounds, including aluminum case

Is your system wired or wireless, or can it be either?

Either. It can be connected via USB cable, which transmits data as well as provides power. It may also simultaneously be connected to a second computer or smartphone via Bluetooth.

What CAT systems work with your writer?

All CAT systems running the Windows operating system.

What dictionary types can be imported?

None.

What translate function does it o­ffer?

None.

What is the size of display?

No display.

What is the range of key adjustability (stacking and side-to-side)?

The range of pressure on each of the 121 sensors for threshold settings is 0 to 1023. Pressure is read on each of 121 sensors 60 times a second. The Zenith application software on the computer uses that information to address any reporter-induced stacking.

Can the display be changed?

No display.

Does it o­ffer any audio features? If so, what are they?

No audio features.

What is the battery life?

Seven hours.

Does the keyboard allow modifications?

Yes, in multiple ways. The Zenith software allows redefining a key to be a steno letter, a combination of letters, or a macro that generates up to four strokes. The writer has additional keys below the vowels. For example, one of those could be defined as a question or answer bank.

Again, the writer has 121 sensors, and each is fully definable. Multiple sensors are under all the keys as well as under the cracks. Crack sensors can be redefined or disabled. For example, redefining the sensors under the crack between the E and U as an E virtually widens the E, moving the sweet spot to actuate both keys to the right. Also, either of the initial S keys or the crack sensor between them can be redefined as a combination of keys or a macro containing up to four strokes.

These are just a few of the possibilities.

What is the storage capacity built into the writer, as well as for backup files?

32 GB on the SD card in the writer itself.

On a connected computer, data is stored on the hard drive by default. Simultaneously, additional backup may be sent to any removable storage media inserted into the computer.

Additional backup may be had by simultaneously connecting via Bluetooth to an Android app, StenAudio, on a smartphone or tablet. Said app creates a time-stamped steno file, plus records an audio file with time stamps. Said files may thereafter be transferred to a CAT system and translated into a text file with the audio synchronized.

Also, if you have your CAT system installed on two computers, you can write to both simultaneously, that is, one computer connected via USB cable and the other Bluetooth.

Additional comments: The Lightspeed Zenith does not require the use of a tripod. It can be operated while placed on your lap or on a table or anywhere that’s comfortable for you. In addition, though it does not have a screen, since it is thin and flat, it can be used while placed on the keyboard of a laptop computer.

Also, with the Zenith writer you can define a key or key combination as a “shift,” “Alt,” or “Ctrl” key. You can keep it depressed while you stroke other steno outlines. When these keys are depressed, you can access a different keyboard layout. For instance, the keys can be defined as numbers or number combinations. A single key can be one letter or multiple letter or a single stroke or multiple strokes, up to four strokes, and that stroke can be sent to the CAT software for translation.

Luminex Manufactured by Stenograph Stenograph.com / 800-323-4247 Specifications: Width: 9.125 inches Depth: 10.3 inches Height: 2.5 inches Weight: 3.5 pounds

Is your system wired or wireless, or can it be either?

The Luminex can be both wired to the computer with a USB cable or wireless, using Bluetooth.

What CAT systems work with your writer?

The Luminex supports both USB and Virtual serial port. Any software that can output to Stentura protocol over serial port can connect to the Luminex. The entire USB protocol description along with sample code is available for download from Stenograph.com to enable any developer to add Stenograph’s writers to their software.

What dictionary types can be imported?

Case CATalyst personal and job dictionaries are downloaded to the writer via a USB cable. Other dictionaries can be converted by using the Stenograph RTF/CRE Dictionary Conversion Utility. Once converted, dictionaries can be downloaded to the writer using USB.

What translate function does it offer?

Once a dictionary is loaded on the writer, the Luminex will display fully translated text, as well as a range of other built-in features like J-defines and Brief it. You can set job dictionary priorities so that when a stroke appears in more than one dictionary with a different definition, the job dictionary with the highest priority is used to translate the stroke. All selected job dictionaries have a higher priority than the main dictionary and the J-defines dictionary within the Luminex memory.

What is the size of display?

The display screen is a capacitive touch, 7-inch diagonal, 800×480 Wide VGA screen.

What is the range of key adjustability (stacking and side-to-side)?

Easily reachable adjustment wheels on the left and right of the machine control keyboard depth of stroke and tension. Also, there are software keyboard adjustment settings: general keyboard sensitivity, split/stack adjustments, as well as fine-tune adjustments of individual keys.

Can the display be changed?

Users have the option of loading any image of their choice for the writer’s splash screen as well as changing the font size and the color of text.

Does it o­ffer any audio features? If so, what are they?

The writer can record high-quality audio in ADPCM or PCM codecs. There are also options for monitoring live audio with a headset and auto pausing of the audio during lulls in testimony.

What is the battery life?

A fully charged battery will last approximately 17 to 19 hours.

Does the keyboard allow modifications?

Any keyboard modifications, such as keytop changes, are done in a controlled factory environment to assure precision and reliability.

What is the storage capacity built into the writer, as well as for backup files?

The Luminex has Triple-Protection Storage. The main SD card saves steno with timestamps and audio to a high-capacity SD card up to 32 GB. The backup SD card also saves steno with timestamps and audio to an SD card up to 32 GB. The backup card never runs out of space and replaces the oldest files with the newest. The Internal RAM will save steno with timestamps up to 6 GB and will replace the oldest files with the newest files.Xpression, Impression, and Blaze Manufactured by ProCAT ProCAT.com / 818.222.6600 Specifications for Xpression: Width: 9.25 inches Depth: 8.25 inches Height: 2.75 inches Specifications for Impression and Blaze: Width: 8.75 inches Depth: 9.25 inches Height: 3.75 inches

Is your system wired or wireless, or can it be either?

ProCAT Xpression o­ffers Bluetooth and WiFi wireless connections. These are standard features in the ProCAT Xpression.

ProCAT Impression comes standard with Bluetooth.

Blaze professional and student models do not support wireless features.

What CAT systems work with your writer?

ProCAT writers are compatible with all current CAT systems. The protocol for our realtime writers is available to everyone free.

What dictionary types can be imported?

RTF dictionaries are preferred; however, ProCAT can convert native dictionary formats from all popular CAT systems.

What translate functions does it o­ffer?

ProCAT Xpression and Impression o­ffer a full range of realtime translation capabilities, such as those found in popular desktop CAT systems. The features include: AutoBrief using Mark Kislingbury’s theory; intelligent prefixing and suffixing; automatic number conversion; conflict resolution; a/an resolution; stack detection; drag-n-drop resolution; wireless feed to iPad app; dictionary global; and automatic punctuation placement. Also, when using Bluetooth, the writer will reconnect automatically when you go out of range, such as in chambers, and the Xpression and Impression have realtime hold for o­ff-the-record proceedings. ProCAT’s writers allow users to export realtime transcript to RTF (Microsoft Word), PTF (LiveNote portable transcript format), and text (ASCII), as well as allowing users to export transcript and audio to other popular CAT systems.

What is the size of display?

ProCAT writers o­ffer a 7-inch color LCD panel with LED backlighting and true touch sensitivity. All features are accessible by simply swiping or touching the screen or icons.

What is the range of key adjustability (stacking and side-to-side)?

ProCAT writers allow the user to set the depth of travel ranging from nearly 1.5 mm to 19 mm. ProCAT writers have two independent processors to capture and translate keystrokes. This feature reduces the risk of stacking and o­ffers additional reliability.

Can the display be changed?

Users can define fonts size; choose from English, steno, or mixed display options; use colors and font emphasis for Q and A; show AutoBrief window; and adjust the English/steno window size by tapping and dragging.

Does it offer any audio features? If so, what are they?

ProCAT Xpression and Impression o­ffer automatic high-definition audio recording. The recorded audio is compatible with all CAT systems and synchronized with its RTF-formatted transcript. The writers also have audio recording boost and volume control, as well as an audio loopback that enables the user to wear a headset or earbud for amplified audio in situations where the acoustics are poor. The audio is recorded only when it is on-the-record. It will not record o­ff-the-record discussions, and they will remain confidential.

What is the battery life?

The battery life is as follows: ProCAT Xpression: 12-14 hours; ProCAT Impression: 18-22 hours; and ProCAT Blaze: 10-12 hours.

Does the keyboard allow modifications?

In addition to the standard key options such as wide keys, ProCAT o­ffers raised vowel keys.

What is the storage capacity built into the writer, as well as for backup files?

The Blaze has a 128 MB storage in internal file backup, and 5 m strokes in revolving backup on a secondary computer. The Impression has 2 GB primary storage (steno, transcript, audio, and backup steno); 2 GB secondary storage (steno, steno in Stentura format), and 1 GB on the internal flash drive, as well as 5 m strokes revolving backup on the secondary computer. The Xpression has 8 GB primary storage (steno, transcript, audio, and backup steno); 8 GB secondary storage (steno, steno in Stentura format), and 4 GB on the internal flash drive, as well as 5 m strokes revolving backup on the secondary computer.

Additional Comments: ProCAT writers use the Windows operating system, which will enable our clients to easily integrate their writer into the PC environment. The Windows environment makes it easier for us to deliver updates to our clients. Additionally, ProCAT technicians can view a client’s screen remotely and o­ffer technical assistance and training. The ProCAT WriterSync offers seamless synchronization between the writer and PC. WriterSync can convert a personal dictionary and upload it into the writer as often as required, or download jobs from the writer into a PC.

Finally, ProCAT Xpression uses a 1.4 GHz Quad-core processor.

TechLinks: Taking care of your smartphone

TechLinks_logoThe NCRA Technology Committee recently shared several resources on smartphones, including a screen cleaner, tips for extending battery life, and top 10 list of accessories.

In October, the Grommet featured SmartKlear, a screen cleaner that uses carbon-cleaning technology to wipe the screen clear. A representative for SmartKlear answers questions about the product in the comments section.

A New York Times article from February shares eight tips and dismantles seven myths about extending battery life.

Both dated from 2014, Men’s Journal and MainStreet published their top 10 smartphone accessories. The accessories include chargers, holders, cases, and photo lenses.

Get realtime-capable now: Tips for learning brief forms for court reporters

By Lynette Mueller

Being realtime-capable should be the goal of every court reporter. My realtime goal is to always strive for 99.8 percent translation rate on every job. The prep work is essential to maintain or exceed that goal. My writing is constantly evolving (even after 30 years of reporting). Writing short is paramount to the success of my translation rate, for keeping up with the fast talkers, and also being kind to my body — specifically my back and hands.

The Oct. 2015 JCR has an article, “Preparation guide for flawless realtime output,” with lots of great tips from some amazing court reporters across the country. Definitely worth the read!

Recently, I’ve focused on brief forms. Creating briefs on the fly is an acquired skill, for sure. The BriefIt feature in my Case CATalyst software (and other CAT software vendors have similar features) is an integral and valuable resource and helps immeasurably with my high translation rate, even though the proceedings could be a fast-paced deposition. (It takes focus and dedication to be able to look at the screen during the proceedings and capture those suggested briefs. During a recess is a good time to take a few minutes to go over the suggested briefs. With my software, the phrases I stroke out the most (with a suggested brief) are highlighted in a bolded color. Genius! It’s easy to concentrate on the strongest colors and make a note of the suggestions.

One may ask, “Okay, how do I memorize and keep track of all the brief forms I want to add to my dictionary?”

Our minds have great capacity to recall all kinds of information. I feel it’s good to have a multi-prong approach to memorizing brief forms. Remember to take a handful of briefs at a time to incorporate into your writing; otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed and could end up dropping important testimony.

Here are a few suggestions to help with that memorization:

  1. Be sure you want to improve your realtime writing and are invested in the process.
  2. Set a goal for yourself.
  3. Write out the brief forms you wish to incorporate into your writing.
  4. Make notes to yourself.
  5. Apply repetition to your practice. As I said, make sure you start with small bits before moving on to the next round of briefs. Keep this in your memory banks before moving on to the next set.
  6. Do most of your studying in the afternoons. One study suggested your ability to memorize relates to the time of day you study, with the afternoon appearing to be the best time of day.
  7. Ensure you are well rested in order to retain the memories. Make sure you take breaks and come back to it later in order to find out how much you actually retained. Then you can focus on the briefs you might have more trouble with.

Next are the steps I’ve implemented that have greatly improved my ability to incorporate new briefs into my writing.

  1. Use your briefing software feature all the time during the job and add the briefs that make sense to your personal dictionary. Dictionary building is key to the success of a higher translation rate.
  2. Make sticky notes and attach to your writer or computer.
  3. Use the app like Sticky Notes. This is a great tool to use because you’ll never lose that physical note again. Simply open the app and move it to the side of your laptop screen. Multiple colors are available for families of briefs!
  4. I like to use my Recorder app on my iPhone to dictate the briefs I want to work on. By recording the words and phrases, it is an easy task to set up my writer to practice on those briefs. You will get instant feedback if you are writing the briefs correctly when you are hooked up for realtime during your practice session.
  5. The last prong of my process is a cool app called Tinycards. This is a free flashcard app to help make memorization more fun! This app is a game where you can unlock new levels and keeping your memory strength bar full! Tinycards uses spaced repetition and other smart learning techniques to help you master new material efficiently. You can create your own decks and share them with friends or pick from a variety of collections exclusive to Tinycards. You’ll find constellations, country capitals, history, and lots more.

I’ve already created two Tinycards called Steno Brief Forms – Part 1 and Steno Brief Forms – Part 2. When you set up your new (free) account, simply search for these and any other topics to add to your stream and start memorizing those briefs today!

Technology is great!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

The latest on speech recognition

By David Ward

Earlier this year, Watson, the IBM artificial intelligence computer that first gained fame in 2011 by beating past champions in the TV game show Jeopardy, publicly returned to the stage. The category: Speech recognition. At a San Francisco tech conference this past spring, IBM officials announced that Watson is now able to hold conversations in English with a word error rate of 6.9 percent.

Watson’s latest feat of 94.1 percent accuracy is fairly impressive — though it should be noted, it’s still well below the 98.5 percent accuracy rate required by many captioning companies.

But Watson and IBM are not alone. During the past five years, speech recognition has emerged as a hot industry, with progress being made on issues such as accuracy and noise filtering, and not just by established players like Nuance, but also from major tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and the Chinese search/e-commerce firm Baidu.

A recent study, Global and China Speech Recognition Industry Report 2015-2020, projected the global intelligent voice market will grow from $6.21 billion in 2015 to $19.2 billion in 2020. In China alone, voice recognition is expected to be a nearly $3.8 billion market within four years.

The good news for court reporters is that, thus far, few of these new speech recognition breakthroughs seem to be aimed at their livelihood of transcribing spoken testimony into 100 percent accurate and properly formatted legal documents. Instead, most of the focus is on speech recognition as a consumer tool by getting smartphones or car entertainment systems to respond to verbal commands. The highest profile example of this trend is Siri, the Apple app (based on Nuance software) now built into iPhones, iPads, and iPods that lets the owners use their voices to send messages, make calls, set reminders, and more.

“In the past, the growth of speech to text was fairly slow, and the main reason for that was that the improvement in accuracy hadn’t happened,” explains Walt Tetschner, president of Voice Information Associates, one of the leading analyst firms covering the automated speech recognition industry. The company is based in Acton, Mass. “It’s only been the last couple of years that you’ve seen dramatic improvements in accuracy — and I would attribute that not to speech to text, but to the demands of mobile.”

Tetschner, who’s also editor and publisher of the trade magazine, ASRNews, adds that voice recognition is now attracting interest more than from Silicon Valley, saying, “The auto industry is big on speech recognition as a way to control the infotainment system within a car, so they’re putting in a lot of resources.”

Because so much of the current focus is on voice recognition — getting a device to understand what a person is saying — little of this is likely to have an immediate impact on the court reporting industry. But Tetschner does note: “Whether it’s used in an automobile or call center or wherever, the basic speech recognition principles are the same, so when you make gains in one area, it will help the others.”

Outside of the consumer space, the segment where speech recognition has been gaining the most traction is as a personal productivity tool for busy professionals, especially those in the medical/healthcare industry.

“The push in the medical field for electronic medical records makes it a great market to be in,” says Henry Majoue, founder and CEO of Voice Automated based in Lake Forest, Calif. Majoue adds that doctors and other medical professionals use software customized by his company to dictate notes and other directives that are automatically turned into electronic text and included in patient files and other medical records.

Peter Mahoney, Nuance senior vice president as well as general manager of the company’s Dragon Desktop division, adds that the improved accuracy of speech recognition is helping to drive adoption in a host of other industries as well.

“There are plenty of areas where we’re seeing a lot of growth, including the public safety and financial service professionals,” Mahoney says. Those groups now outnumber the people with hearing issues or other disabilities who were previously among of the first adopters of Nuance speech-to-text solutions.

Mahoney says Dragon Desktop is also making inroads in the legal industry. “In litigation preparation, attorneys will often read multiple documents and dictate their notes so they can prepare their arguments,” he says. “We’re also seeing a lot more mobile use, where lawyers dictate notes while outside the office or do case documentation on the go. Lawyers create a lot of texts, and it’s far more productive to be able to use their voices as opposed to having to type.”

Majoue agrees with this assessment: “Our legal business has been aimed at helping lawyers get their documents done, and that can include any type of legal business that needs a lot of documentation, such as worker compensation firms.”

Virtually all of this speech recognition is occurring in fairly controlled environments — and it involves just a single voice. “It’s extremely accurate for the individual,” points out Majoue. “You could get a copy of Dragon software now and be pretty well dictating at greater than 90 percent accuracy within five minutes.”

With accuracy that’s good but not close to perfect, voice recognition tools could soon help universities and other public and private institutions go through vast archives of video and audio records, including lectures, speeches, and seminars, and make them searchable by keyword.

But the next step, moving from voice recognition using a single user in a controlled setting to one where there are multiple voices in a noisy room, continues to be out of reach.

“It’s still extremely difficult currently for speech recognition to move beyond a single user,” Majoue say. “In order for it to work with more than one voice, each individual user would have his or her own computer and microphone focused on just that one voice.”

Those limitations in a multi-voice environment is one reason why speech recognition hasn’t been even more widely adopted by the deaf and hard of hearing, who were one of the earliest supposed beneficiaries of speech recognition.

“Although, in recent years, deaf and hard-of-hearing people have begun to use speech recognition tools in some limited situations, the technology has not been where it needs to be for practical purposes in most settings,” explains Howard Rosenblum, CEO for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “While improved accuracy is, by far, the most needed element in speech recognition software, the NAD is in favor of current developments where the speech recognition software is able to identify and indicate who is speaking, particularly in group settings. The NAD also looks forward to improved speed in converting speech to text so that it is as close to real time as possible. There also needs to be software that can be adjusted to give more weight to specific verbiage when the discussion is in a particular area, such as science, computer technology, medicine, law, psychology, and the like.”
With plenty of pent-up demand for speech recognition tools that can work with multiple voices and in rooms with less-than-ideal acoustics, Mahoney suggests the solution may not be that far off.

“When you listen to a recording of a meeting, it sounds in retrospect like a bunch of crazy people because people communicate half-thoughts and they redirect their comments because people are speaking over them,” Mahoney says. “Because of that, the algorithms that are being used for transcripts even in the very sophisticated machine learning tools used these days struggle to come up with context.”

But Mahoney goes on to predict, “Within five years, you’ll see very, very high accuracy, and that’s being driven by a combination of more advanced machine learning techniques to develop sophisticated speech models combined with the access to lots and lots of data that can be used to train these systems to get smarter and smarter.”

Mahoney adds that the development of voice biometric systems that can identify different voices, separate the speech, and label the speaker could also soon be a key component of speech recognition software from Nuance.

As for the acoustic challenges that may come with speech recognition in settings such as a courtroom, Mahoney says: “We’ll certainly use software to clean up the dirty signals in a noisy environment. But on top of that, there are audio processing capabilities that will allow you to deal with far-field microphones.”

Even with these improvements, Mahoney says there will still be many things that court reporters do today that voice recognition software simply won’t be able to match.

“One thing that current voice recognition systems aren’t good enough at yet is really doing the kind of formatting and labeling of data in the way a court reporter would do to come up with a finished document,” Mahoney says. “To produce the raw text with high accuracy that is readable — that can be done. But to produce a transcript that is formatted and 100 percent accurate, you are going to need a court reporter.”

Speech recognition has been on the radar screen of the court reporting community for two decades or more. Given all the recent improvements in speech recognition technology, is now the time for court reporters to start to worry?

Right now, the answer to that seems to be yes — and no.

There are already companies out there in other parts of the world promising speech recognition as part of their courtroom technology, but given the current technology limitations, most of those claims can easily be dismissed as unproven hype.

Still, Mason Farmani, CEO and managing partner of Barkley Court Reporters in Los Angeles, says: “I do think that we should take speech recognition very seriously. With the exponential growth of the technology, the usefulness of this technology in our profession is not that far away. Between IBM’s Watson project, Google’s Jarvis, and Apple’s Siri, there are many speech databases being built, and some like IBM’s are encouraging and facilitating Watson-based systems. I do think we are much closer than we think. The only issue would be adopting legislations to accommodate these changes, which we all know happens very slowly.”

Farmani stops short of suggesting reporting firms begin investing in speech recognition tools in the same way many have invested in other technology trends like videography and cloud-based storage.

“I don’t think the time has come yet — but when it’s here, we should [invest in it], especially with the continuing shortage of court reporters,” Farmani says. “I think there will come a time where these technologies will be used in legal proceedings, but highly educated, highly professional court reporters will continue to be in demand for more complicated cases.”

Todd Olivas of Todd Olivas & Associates of Temecula, Calif., says he has no plans to invest in speech recognition tools any time soon. “But the reason is not because the technology isn’t there yet,” he says. “In fact, I’ll go further and add to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about certitude – ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’ – and add technology advancements. So for our purposes, we’d be foolish to think that court reporting is immune to technological advancements. Just ask yourself how many pen writers are still working. Steno writers took their places; right? Ask yourself how many steno writers are transcribing from paper notes. Laptops installed with CAT software took that role. Still, the human court reporter is the constant in all of those scenarios.”

Because of that, Olivas recommends that court reporters not fret over changes in technology like speech recognition, but simply be ready to adapt when they do come.

“We perform our duties using a certain set of tools today in 2016,” Olivas explains. “Yes, the various technologies will change, but the core role of what we do will not. Because our real value is not tied to that. Our real value is being the eyes and ears of the judge. There will always be the need to have a neutral, third-party observer at these proceedings who can administer the oath, facilitate the capture of the spoken word, produce a written document, and certify to its accuracy.”
David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

 

 

TechLinks: Apps we can’t live without

TechLinks_logoThe Technology Committee members recently shared their “must have” apps. These apps are all either free or operate under a freemium system (meaning a free baseline service with premium options for a fee).

  • LastPass is a password manager. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Dropbox provides storage and file sharing. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Dashlane is a password manager and digital wallet. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Speedtest by Ookla tests Internet connectivity speeds. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Flightaware is a live flight tracker and provides flight status updates. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Evernote keeps and organizes notes. Available on iOS and Android.
  • F.lux adjusts the device’s display to match time of day. Limited availability on iOS and Android; download directly from the website.
  • TurboScan scans documents, photos, etc., and saves them as either PDF or JPEG files. Free on iOS; available for a fee on Android.

NCRA Kindle Fire winner announced

By Jennifer Late

More prizes available for membership renewal

A record number of members have renewed their 2017 membership in October. These renewals were driven in part by a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

NCRA membership renewal Kindle Fire winner

The lucky winner for October 2016 is Karla Jagusch, RPR, of Overland Park, Kan. She has been a court reporter for over 38 years, 36 of which she has been an official court reporter for the First and Tenth Judicial Districts of the State of Kansas. Karla explains why she renewed her membership: “I feel it is important and my obligation to support the association that supports me as a court reporter.”

Click here to renew now!

Photo by: Erik Araujo. Used and adapted with permission via Creative Commons

Renew before Dec. 1 and be entered to win

Members still have a chance to be rewarded for renewing before Dec. 1. NCRA will give away an upgraded Premium Plus listing on the online NCRA Sourcebook. Any Registered, Participating, or Associate member who has renewed before Dec. 1 will have their name entered into a drawing for this upgraded listing for January through December 2017.

NCRA continues to work for its members

  • Online skills testing: Whether you are just starting testing for your RPR or going for your CRC or another advanced certification, you can now complete your skills tests from the comfort of your own home. With more opportunities to test, you will be able to achieve your certification goals faster and increase your earning potential.
  • CRC Workshop & Certification: Based on member demand for more training in the field, NCRA created the new Certified Realtime Captioner program designed just for captioners.
  • FCC Captioning Quality Standards: NCRA’s Government Relations team has been working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance and the Federal Communications Commission to develop new captioning quality standards.
  • Increased online education opportunities: NCRA has expanded its first-class educational programming via webinars and e-seminars vetted to ensure they meet the needs of the marketplace. New online webinars and e-seminars are added each month for members to purchase, view, and earn CEUs.
  • Exhibiting at the ABA TechShow: NCRA has been advocating for you with judges, attorneys, paralegals, clerks, and other legal professionals. With a focus on what your certifications mean and the value of realtime, NCRA is raising the overall awareness of the profession with the people who matter.
  • For CLVS members: A stronger CLVS emphasis was added to the NCRA Convention & Expo, helping videographers network directly with the court reporting membership. By popular demand, new seminars and webinars were created to help CLVSs stay on the cutting edge of technology.

NCRA membership cards

In an effort to embrace technology, NCRA will continue our practice of sending only electronic membership cards to members via email. Members can expect to receive their membership card within approximately four weeks of renewing if they have a valid email address and have not previously opted out of Constant Contact email messaging.

Jennifer Late is NCRA’s Membership & Marketing Manager. She can be reached at jlate@ncra.org.