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Talon Voice, the Start of the Journey

Authors
  • avatar
    Name
    Trillium Smith
    Twitter
confused-sloth

My initial interest in Talon Voice has always had a little bit to do with sloth-like behavior and an obsession to be able to use my computer's full functionality from bed. Before moving to Apple devices, I prioritized buying 2-in-1 tablet PC's to be able to use them in tablet mode from the comfort of soft cushy covers. This worked great, provided I never needed to use a keyboard or mouse and could get by with a touch screen (which really only worked with browsing the web at best).

I've always been a frequent user of the cellphone voice assistant features, and voice to text transcription, so figuring out a way to use my computer by voice too wasn't that much of a logical leap. Enter: Talon Voice.

What is Talon Voice

Talon Voice is a voice-based accessibility software allowing users to control their computer using their voice. This can be particularly useful for individuals with physical disabilities that prevent them from using traditional input methods like a keyboard or mouse. Talon Voice also offers benefits in shifting one's ability of controlling a computer to away from the desk/chair.

2021 - Planting the seed

My first exposure to Talon Voice was via A Talk by Emily Shae on Voice Driven Development, I was intrigued by the idea of being able to program and practice yoga at the same time. Yoga in my case mostly consisting of Savasana, but it's the thought that counts.

Even after viewing Emily's talk, using Talon was still more of an aspiration. Going from zero experience controlling a computer by voice to being a fully functional user has been a steep journey.

What exactly needs to be learned

For starters, the whole alphabet has to be relearned:

LetterTalon Name
AAir
BBat
CCap
DDrum
EEach
FFine
GGust
HHarp
ISit
JJury
KCrunch
LLook
MMade
NNear
OOdd
PPit
QQuench
RRed
SSun
TTrap
UUrge
VVest
WWhale
XPlex
YYank
ZZip

Too many words in the English alphabet rhyme with each other, making voice disambiguation difficult.

Letters with an -ee sound rhyme: 
  B C D E G P T V Z

Letters with an -ay sound rhyme:
  A J K

On top of all this, Talon Voice is difficult to use without a halfway decent microphone. My first foray into using Talon used the onboard microphone for my laptop, which wasn't the best.

2022 - Dabbling

My desire to use Talon has always been paired with getting rid of cords. I'd been hunting for the correct wireless microphone, and my first attempt was:

This worked out okay, but was ultimately not a great fit due to my computer setup constantly being moved around. USB-A interfaces are being phased out, so I had to use a dongle to get the USB-A slots for the receiver. Coupled with the need to get both devices into pairing mode before they would connect to my computer, this setup often took too long and was too frustrating to get going quickly. I was left with wanting something simpler.

2023 - Buying too many useless things

At this point I had recently purchased a used MacBook Pro M1 hoping that switching to Apple devices would lessen my headache of getting into software development. I continued to try a few different microphones and accessories:

I ended up buying a few other odds and ends here and there, but ultimately thought I needed an even better microphone due to my audio not recognizing in Talon very well.

2024

This is the year that I finally got to actually practice using Talon. I had finally signed a lease and no longer needed to house hop, I got a Giant TV, a used rowing machine, and then I was off to the races!

All the cords accessories felt really cumbersome, and I really wanted to be able to use my voice to navigate my computer and row at the same time, or fold laundry, or just laze on my bed in whatever position feels comfy. I ended up buying a few more odds and ends like a fanny pack to house all the cables and equipment, but ultimately in a fit of annoyance I just tried the onboard mic the Rode II Go has fastened to a baseball cap.

2024 - Finally...

Turns out all that info was incorrect, the only piece of equipment I really needed was the Rode II Go with its onboard lavalier mic. Just those two simple items were enough to get crackin' as long as the mic is placed in front of your face consistently.

As of now my current set up is:

  • Baseball cap
  • Rode II Mic
  • Binder Clip - to face the Rode mic the correct direction
  • Giant TV
  • Row Machine

Nowadays I have become proficient enough in Talon to be able to do things like browse the web ( using an excellent extension called Rango ), and have been steadily working on learning to voice code via Cursorless.

It's a daily journey, and I am actively working on giving myself better tools to learn the large Talon Community vocabulary that lets all the magic happen.

What's next

If you'd like to take some of this journey yourself, Talon Voice has a free version, and a private paid beta that can be joined for a monthly fee.

Additional odds and ends

I didn't really get into exactly how Talon Voice or the community curated grammer do what they do, I'll detail that in a later post.

I'd also really like to provide a video of what rowing and voice coding looks like. When I finally get that made, I'll update this post :)