Chrome Browser Desktop Users Can Now Experience Voice Search

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-11-27

Chrome Browser Desktop Users Can Now Experience Voice Search

Google's Chrome Web browser now offers a cool new plug-in that brings voice search capabilities to Chrome for desktop users.

The Google Voice Search Hotword plug-in was released as a beta version on Nov. 26 in the Google Play store and can be installed into a user's Chrome desktop browser by downloading it to his or her machine and going through a few simple steps.

For users, now they can have the same Google voice search capabilities on their desktop machines that they experience on their Android and iOS devices. The early version of the plug-in isn't perfect, but it works well enough and is certain to be finessed and massaged into a better performing format in the future.

To use the new feature, users can speak into their desktop microphone and give voice commands that will render a response from Chrome. "This extension allows you to say 'OK Google' and start speaking your search," according to the description of the plug-in in the Play store. "Now you can talk to Google when you're using Chrome. Hands-free. No typing. Simply say 'OK Google' and then ask your question."

The first version is apparently only for users in the United States.

A few simple voice commands to test the new plug-in showed some the limitations with the first beta version of the app. A command for "OK Google, Dallas Dealey Plaza" quickly brought up a Google Search page about the infamous spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago last week.

Another search for Dalessandro's Steaks & Hoagies in Philadelphia had to be repeated about five times until the voice search plug-in responded with the proper answer. There is still work to be done with the word recognition capabilities of the plug-in, but finding such a complicated name after only five tries wasn't exactly a disappointment.

A search for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington quickly found a Google Maps locator map for the White House.

Some early users of the new plug-in posted their reviews about the new addition, with some people loving it and some not so thrilled about it at this point.

"Works great for a beta!" wrote Nicholas Cappo. "Occasionally it gives me the error in between tests that there is no internet connection. Could mean anything but I definitely had an internet connection. Because of this little flaw I gave it 4 stars, but so far, great!"

Brandon Fischer also liked it. "Keep it coming Google," he wrote. "Now all we need is functionality for the whole browser!"

Chrome Browser Desktop Users Can Now Experience Voice Search

Caprice Neals was excited about its possibilities. "So far, good," he wrote. "I like it, [it] definitely has potential of being a great extension."

Another reviewer, Logan M Parker, wrote, "Works every single time with me. It responds really quickly to me saying 'OK, Google' and searches smoothly. I am very impressed. If it isn't working for you, try opening Google and leaving it open for about 10 seconds before trying the search. I had to do this the very first time and now it works as soon as the page is up. It works faster and smoother than Google Now on my Nexus 7! I'm using my flat screen TV as a monitor and this feels like Star Trek. The future is now!"

User smith etienne said it worked well for him, but suggested that prospective users be sure to set their microphone input settings correctly for the best operation of the plug-in.

The critics said that problems with the plug-in have made it disappointing fore them so far.

"Not working on my Samsung Chromebook," wrote James Washington. "[Microphone] is just the outline. It does work by selecting icon, though."

Zachary Toliver wrote that the plug-in was not working for him at all. "Persistent 'Not Listening' [message] even though my microphone works fine after I click the mic icon."

Greg Presland agreed. "Doesn't work. Re-installed and re-launched Chrome a few times and it will not listen. I still have to manually click the microphone icon for it to work."

The desktop voice search capabilities follow Google's wide body of work in bringing voice commands to mobile users over the last few years.

In September, Google vastly improved and broadened its voice commands in the latest Version 30 of Chrome for iOS. Users received new capabilities such as being able to string together multiple voice searches with pronouns to get to results faster, as well as deeper voice context into searches.

In July, Google Glass got its own voice command improvements and expanded capabilities as part of the device's monthly software updates for early Google Glass users. The update allows Glass users to do more things without having to touch any Glass controls, and it will allow users to communicate more easily with family members and friends in their contacts list.

Also in July, Google returned outbound voice calling services to its Hangouts feature in Gmail and Google+ and through the Chrome browser extension after it was temporarily removed in May when Hangouts was updated. Users complained about the missing voice-calling feature after the May changes, and now Google has put voice calling back.

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