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Chapter 21. Working with Input Devices > Mac OS X to the Max: Other Input Devic...

Mac OS X to the Max: Other Input Devices

Although keyboards and mice (along with their variants) are the primary input devices that you are likely to use, they are by no means the only types available. Following are three other types of more specialized control devices:

  • Speech recognition This category of device is more software than hardware (the only hardware required is a microphone of one type or another), but its purpose is the same as the other devices in this chapter. You can use speech recognition to both input information to and provide control over your Mac. Although the idea of being able to speak to your Mac is quite appealing, most implementations of this concept fall far short of the ideal. In fact, they tend to fall so far short of the ideal that they tend not to be useful other than for a few rare moments of “gee whiz” when they actually do work as promised.

    There have been many attempts to develop a usable voice recognition system over the years. However, analyzing the human voice is an incredible complex task, and only with the recent increases in processing power has this become even possible on a personal computer. Having several of these systems collecting dust in my office, I don't believe that this technology is yet ready for practical, everyday use (unless you happen to get lucky and have the perfect voice for it—even then, you will be doing lots of tweaking to get such a system to work reliably). Although speech recognition sounds appealing, the reality is that a keyboard and mouse-type device provide much faster, more reliable, more precise, and more efficient input than any speech recognition system. As the technology continues to evolve, hopefully this will change and speech recognition will become a feasible alternative.

    Note

    There are two leading speech recognition applications for the Mac. One is IBM's ViaVoice for Mac; check it out on www.ibm.com/software/speech/mac/. The other is MacSpeech's iListen; Macspeech's Web site is www.macspeech.com.


  • Digital tablets These devices enable you to input information and execute control using a pen-type mouse that you use to “write” on the tablet. These devices are often favored by artists and others who need more precise input capabilities and a “softer touch” than can be achieved with a standard mouse. In the most advanced models, the tablet is actually an LCD monitor on which you can directly “draw.”

    Note

    The leader in digital tablet devices is Wacom technology. Check it out on www.wacom.com.


  • Joysticks and gamepads These devices serve one purpose, and that is to make game playing a more satisfying experience. In fact, some games, such as flight simulators, can't be played very well without a good joystick. Other games, such as those involving lots of rapid hand motions, are much better played with a gamepad.


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