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New Chrome beta listens for your voice

Google has just announced that its flagship browser would now include a hands-free search option.


In a new Google Chrome blog, posted February 27, the search giant revealed that its flagship browser application would now include hands-free search options. The new feature has been available as an optional extension for some time, but its inclusion in the browser beta signals another step in the transition of Android features into the PC workspace.

In the new Chrome beta build, users only have to visit google.com or open a new Chrome browser tab, say the words "Ok Google," and then speak a search query to take advantage of the new functionality. This is the same well-known feature made available in Android-based smart devices. The desktop beta of the Chrome beat, including hands-free search will be made available for testing in a few days from the announcement with a version of hands-free search available in Chrome OS soon after.

Hands-free search

Google has been incorporating hands-free search in its products and services for some time. In 2011, Google added the recognizable microphone icon onto its google.com search page, which allowed users to voice search queries by clicking the icon. Google later added a hands-free search extension, for Chrome and Chrome OS, in late 2013 that allowed the use of "Ok Google" instead of manual activating the search icon.

Now, with the inclusion of hands-free search into the Chrome beta, Google has eliminated the hands-free search extension all together. This step looks to be the indication that hands-free search availability will be included in all Google offerings.

Google's hands-free voice search provides more than simple search queries. As with the Android version, voice search will allow users to also set appointments, set reminders, and set timers. Android users are able to open applications as well as search, but there has been no comment on further Chrome beta hands-free search functionality.

Privacy concerns

The current version of Chrome beta hands-free search requires users to manually enable the "Ok Google" functions. Once enabled, the Google service will be monitoring voice communications for the "Ok Google" trigger each time users visit Google.com or open a new tab in Chrome.

According to Google help page information, information gathered by voice monitoring will only be sent to Google servers once the "Ok Google" phrase has been used. Then, and only then, will the next phrase be sent to Google as the search query. All other processing is done locally by the current extensions and the new Chrome beta service for recognizing "Ok Google" utterances.

There has been no word from Google concerning the pre-utterance voice monitoring and storage or analyzation by Google servers or services.

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