There was once a time where the notion of having a conversation with your computer seemed clunky and uncomfortable. Today, the advancements in AI technology that brought us the likes of Alexa and Siri are in full flow and have opened the door to an unparalleled level of convenience, despite the overall fear of AI.
Conducting an engaging presentation, whether done via PowerPoint or a similar method, is an art form in itself. You have to keep on top of your hesitations and limit distractions to the audience.
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There are few bigger ways of undermining your presentation than through continual breaks in concentration owing to manually navigating slides or checking your notes on the slide in question. But thanks to AI, this can be intuitively countered by optimised voice recognition and dictation services.
Here, I take a look at how communicating with our computers is changing the way we conduct presentations.
We’re capable of controlling our computers, mobile phones, and even our homes with our voice – so it’s curious that technology is yet to be formally released that enables us to gain full control in those rare moments where we need to keep our attention firmly on our audiences.
Luckily, Microsoft’s Rob Chambers has been thinking way ahead of us and published a highly useful set of speech macros that allow users to freely sift through PowerPoint slides hands-free.
Chambers’ macros have been in existence for over 10 years now and are capable of making all the difference in enabling the creation of presentations that aren’t dependant on the user’s proximity to a keyboard or mouse for the progression of slides.
This makes for a vital connection being maintained between the presenter and their audience, with no breaks in momentum or concentration. Simply announce ‘next slide’ or ‘previous slide’ where appropriate and maintain your status as the focal point of the presentation.
Since the advent of smart assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana, voice recognition AI has become much more prevalent, and we can expect to see further advances in the field of aiding the convenience of PowerPoint-based slides moving forward.
Soon, it’s fair to expect integrated programs to understand when they’re being addressed and to perform more complex voice-activated tasks, like re-run embedded media or skip to a specific slide – with the eventual aim of enabling 100% hands-free presenting.
Speaking of Cortana, Microsoft is already utilising the smart software’s speech recognition capabilities to bring improvements to the usability of its presentation software.
The result of this ‘borrowing’ of technology from Cortana is ‘Dictate’ – a fresh app that automatically transcribes your vocalisations for recording onto any Microsoft Office program.
While Dictate might not be of much use once you’re stood in front of a hall consisting of around 200 people, it could pay dividends in the preparation process. Not least for the app’s extremely useful ‘real-time text translation’ tool that’s capable of interpreting words into 60 different languages.
If you’ve ever suffered from any form of dyslexia, or learning difficulties, Dictate can pay dividends in alleviating the strain of committing your thoughts and points into text. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives where we’re tasked with reading our own typos during a presentation – Dictate helps alleviate such strains with ease.
Dictate automatically transcribes from voice-to-text within any embedded text box on a presentation, so it’s important to either construct a layout with plenty of room for textual additions or find a dedicated template.
Flipping text into speech
Of course, if speech can become text then logically the process can work the opposite way around.
PowerTalk is one piece of technology that’s capable of reading what you’ve written and converting it into audio that can be played at your next presentation.
While the process of letting machines do your talking for you may ultimately be less effective than undertaking the job yourself, it can certainly carry plenty of benefits for presenters who may be less confident in the language they’re due to speak in, or in a region that may struggle to understand strong dialects.
PowerTalk was initially created in response to an open letter from a person suffering from Aphasia, and their plea for more ‘accessible IT.’
In a world that’s dependant on face-to-face communication, the marriage of voice recognition and AI makes for a powerful and inclusive brand of technology that’s capable of helping the disadvantaged among us to produce engaging and informative presentations.