Google Offers Voice Actions for Android, Chrome to Phone

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-12

Google Offers Voice Actions for Android, Chrome to Phone

Google put Apple's Siri and startups such as Vlingo on notice with Voice Actions for Android, an extension of Google's voice-search technology that lets users speak commands into their smartphone to browse the Web, send texts and make calls.

Users of smartphones running Android 2.2 can tap the microphone button on the Google search box on their phone's home screen, or press and hold the physical-search button on the phone to activate the "Speak Now" screen.

Google has created a number of commands users can use to send text messages, find directions or call businesses. Users may read those commands here and see a demo of them in action.

The technology builds on Google's popular "Search by Voice" feature, which lets speakers of English, Spanish, Japanese and several other languages, speak into their phone's microphone to search the Web.

Available now for English speakers only, Voice Actions for Android will be pre-installed with the new Motorola Droid 2 phone, which Verizon Wireless began selling Aug. 12.

However, users with Android 2.2-based smartphones such as the original Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One, HTC Evo 4G must "download several app updates" from Android Market to use Voice Actions.

These include Voice Search, the Google Search widget and preferred music apps. These apps do not come pre-installed on those handsets.

Voice Actions for Android is very similar to technology Apple acquired from Siri in May, and to software from startup Vlingo.

Siri lets iPhone users book restaurant tables and buy movie tickets by speaking into their phone.

Google Mobile Apps Rival Apple, Vlingo


Vlingo's SuperDialer for Android application connects users to businesses on the Web. Vlingo's Android app also lets users speak commands to send text messages or call numbers and make reservations.

Siri's and Vlingo's apps are iterative in that they "got smarter" as people used the application, remembering spoken commands to make connections more quickly for users. It is not clear if Google's Voice Actions for Android offers the same level of intelligence.

One thing neither Siri nor Vlingo do is enable users to pipe messages from their computers to their mobile phones.

Google leveraged the cloud-to-device messaging API in Android 2.2 to build a Chrome browser extension that lets users send links, phone numbers, Google Maps and YouTube videos to their smartphones with a single click.

Users may download and install the Chrome to Phone extension, where it will sit in the Chrome browser toolbar. Users will also have to download the Chrome to Phone Android application from the Android Market.

Here's how it works (in English only for now). Suppose a user accesses, for example, a Google Map while surfing the Web from their desktop but doesn't have time to finish consuming it.

He or she can click the Chrome to Phone icon and push the map to their Motorola Droid, Droid 2 or other smartphone that supports Android 2.2. This also works for phone numbers and other information that users highlight on a Web page in Chrome.

This technology provides an easy information conduit between the user's desktop and his or her handset, something that was not possible before. It's also technology Apple may be forced to pay close attention to for its iPhone.

See the Chrome to Phone demo here. Also, see more information on Google's Voice for Actions and Chrome to Phone launch on TechMeme here.

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