By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated November 27, 2013.
Talk-searching has come to the popular Chrome browser. On Tuesday, Google released an extension for its browser that activates voice-control searching by first saying, "OK, Google."
The extension, called the Google Voice Search Hotword, is available in beta at the Chrome Web Store in the U.S. for English. Once installed, it enables users to initiate spoken Google commands via the browser by first saying the designated hotwords, "OK, Google," when they are on microphone-equipped computers and on Google.com. That is also the hotword for getting the Google Glass headgear to pay attention, so it may become a commonly heard phrase.
In a posting on the Google+ blog, the technology giant described on Tuesday a holiday-appropriate use case. "You're elbow-deep in your turkey," the post reads, "and you need to quickly calculate how many ounces of walnuts are in a cup." Instead of stopping, washing your hands and typing in a search, as they used to do in old days, you simply say to your computer: "Ok, Google, how many ounces are in a cup?"
Set the Timer
In addition to asking questions, voice commands also cover the increasing number of non-search functions that Google search can provide, such as asking Google to set a timer for 30 minutes or asking the search engine to "show me pictures of sailboats."
However, the Chrome browser does not have full Google Now functionality, meaning that the user cannot voice such non-search commands as, say, what's on your calendar for today. Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant inside the Google Search mobile app for iOS and Android devices, and it is designed to answer questions, provide suggestions and display appropriate data related to birthdays, flights, movies, news and other personal subjects.
After installation of the Voice Search extension, the user needs to grant permission for access to the microphone on the computer, and then says the soon-to-be-famous "OK, Google" so that the search engine will recognize the user's voice.
Once a voice is recognized, a red microphone displays the words spoken after the OK hotwords, which then are shown in the search field in the search engine, along with the results.
After five minutes, the red mike no longer listens for commands that immediately follow "OK, Google," alleviating any concerns that the technology giant is monitoring that argument you always have with your uncle on Thanksgiving. Visually, a user can note if Google is listening, as the shaded microphone turns into an outline when it has stopped ying attention If a user wishes, that listening setting can be lengthened or turned off, such as when one might want to ask questions intermittently while cooking.
In addition to the still-in-preview Google Glass, the "OK, Google" hotwords also work on selected Android mobile devices, including Motorola Droids, the Moto X and the Nexus 5. Additionally, the feature is built into the latest version of Google's open-source Android operating system, version 4.4 KitKat, allowing "OK Google" to be recognized from the user's home screen on the mobile device. It is also available on Google's thin-client Chromebook laptops.