XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10
Commercial (18 US$)
Voice-Activated Commands (VAC) System is a versatile tool for controlling computer games by voice commands. It even works for users who use breathing masks.
- sound card
- microphone (preferably with noise cancellation!)
- ability to articulate clearly
- problems using a keyboard
VAC consists of two programs, the voice recognition part and the editor, the so-called 'builder' that is used to create user profiles. VAC uses thenative voice-recognition of Windows Vista and Windows 7. The Windows XP version is based on the speech API that has to be installed separately. The makers of VAC included the speech API into the Windows XP installation package of VAC. For optimal results it makes sense to at least once run the voice recognition training because the training helps the computer to get used to the user's voice. This is done by simply reading a short text to the computer. This takes no longer than 10 minutes. Training can be started from the voice-recognition options in the Windows control panel. Skipping the training session will mostly result in inaccurate recognition. The benefit of triggering windows's own voice-recognition is that VAC works in any language the Windows installation the user has, meaning that a German Windows Vista or Windows 7 installation makes VAC understand German commands. Adding different languages is possible for windows Vista/7 in the ultimate/enterprise edition (more info). the situation with Windows XP is slightly different. There exist language packs in English, Spanish, French and German (more info).
With VAC you can use any words or sentences as commands. To each command the user can assign freely to define keystrokes or chains of keystrokes. The VAC builder application allows complex commands such as pushing and holding a key while another key is pushed for a short period of time. Even function keys like ctrl, tab, del, etc. and mouse buttons can be accessed and combined with any other key/button. It is possible to define how long a key should be pushed down (in milliseconds) or if it has to be held down until the command is given again. VAC can start programs by command, it can change user profiles on the fly and it has a push to talk function. That way voice communication software such as Teamspeak can be used at the same time as VAC. The push to talk button has to be a physically one like a mouse or a game pad button. Keyboard keys cannot be used for that purpose.
VAC does not support to hold a mouse button down for a certain amount of time, yet. It is planned for a future version. In the meantim you can utilize an easy workaround, which is described below.
The following AHK-script will turn the F21, F22 and F23 keys into mouse buttons.
So if you want VAC to hold down the left, right or middle mouse button just have it send the respective key. The keys can be toggled or pressed for a customizable amount of time. The only thing you must not forget is to tell your game, that the mouse buttons have been changed to the F-keys. By the way, your real mousebuttons will still work as always.
It's best to use microphones wit noise cancellation like thos meant for speech recognition applications. Prices range from 20,00 up to several hundred Euro but normally a mic for about 60,00 Euro should be more than enough. A small degree of higher recognitio accuracy doesn't necessarily do justice to the higher priced solutions. The author of this article uses the Samson C01U. Its cardioid shape of the area in which it receives sound makes it quite adequat for the gamers slightly noisy environment. There are many brands of microphones, 'Andrea' for instance offers good noise cancellating headsets at fair prices.
About home ventilation
Since the noise created by ventilation machines depends on several factors such as pressure, frequency, etc., experiences may vary, but as a person who is dependent on mechanical ventilation the author does not have big problems with speech recognition jobs like dictation or gaming.
Using a nose-mask, it is common that the n and the m is recognized poorly because these two are nasal sounds that become obscured due to the nose-mask.
The noise of the exhaling valve can be heard by most microphones but it is rather rare that it causes severe disturbances.
Ventilation through a tracheotomy can lead to inaccuracies in speech recognition because of inconsistencies in the volume of the spoken words or phrases. This can be overcome with some training and it is rather common that it does not disturb recognition too much. Just give it a try and few days of getting used to it.
- Arabic numerals (6, 0, 7, 28, etc. should be written down as words (six, zero, seven, twentyeight, etc.).
- avoid commands that sound too similar (e.g. gun, run)
- it is better to use phrases of several words instead of single words
- sometimes (especially German) it's better to split word combinations into single words (nachladen --> nach laden)
- If you can't get VAC to run under Windows 10 just try to run it with administrator privileges.
- make sure not to stop pushing down the push-to-talk button before pronounciation of the command is finished ompletely.
VAC contains a virtual keyboard that shows what keys have been assigned already. Commands can be exported from existing user profiles. Windows programs can be controlled with VAC, too.
What VAC is not meant for
- it cannot be used to dictate text; Well, it can, but dictation of text in the form of 'type hotel, type echo, type lima, type lima, type oscar' just for the term 'hello' seems to be awkward, not to mention the need to create a complete dictation alphabet in your profile.
- it cannot control the mouse pointer by itself.
- Ablegamers forum posting about how to create VAC profiles.
At the moment VAC costs 18 US-Dollar (price may be subject to change) and has to be bought online using Paypal. A 30 day demo without restrictions can be downloaded at the homepage (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7).