"Ok Google" added to always-listening Chromebooks

Google has quietly added "Ok Google" support to its bleeding-edge Chromebooks, giving the web-centric notebooks the ability to listen out for voice commands with nary a button press, just as on Android phones and Android Wear smartwatches. The feature, part of the latest developer build available optionally through the Chrome OS Dev Channel, has to be manually enabled, but once active – and after a little voice training – the Chromebook will automatically open up a new search page whenever you say "Ok Google" and the screen is on.

The browser needn't be active at the time, and nor do you need to have a blank or Google.com tab open.

However, it's not quite as flexible as the voice command implementation on an Android phone. Whereas "Ok Google" can be used to wake some Android handsets up from standby, completely without touching them first, your Chromebook will need to be active for it to be recognized.

There's also no option to change the trigger command. That could lead to some tricky clashes in functionality if you're a dedicated Google-device addict: shout out "Ok Google" and your Chromebook, phone, and watch could all end up reacting.

Custom commands would certainly go some way to addressing that – you could set a more specific "Ok Chromebook" instruction, for instance – and we'd be surprised if it wasn't at least on Google's to-do list.

If you want to give the new feature a try, you'll need to install the latest developer build of Chrome OS and then head to chrome://flags in the browser. Enabling the experimental option is one of the commands in the list.

It's unclear what sort of impact on battery life having the microphone always turned on and listening might have at this stage. Full records of the voice activity will be available through Google's audio history online.

Assuming it's a success, Google is likely to graduate "Ok Google" from experimental feature to standard Chrome OS, though there's no telling when that could happen.

VIA GigaOm

SOURCE François Beaufort