Look, Chrome, no hands: Google rolls out hands-free desktop search

'OK, Google' searches, a la Google Glass, are coming to the desktop version of Chrome

The "OK, Google" passphrase already in use on Android mobile devices and Google Glass has arrived on the desktop, as Google announced the roll-out of hands-free voice search for desktop users of its Chrome browser this week.

Google has had voice search capability in Chrome for some time now. Clicking the small microphone icon at the right side of Google search boxes displayed in Chrome prompts the user for permission to use the microphone, and activates voice search, which can be accessed by clicking the microphone icon again and simply speaking a query out loud.

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Now, however, users of the latest beta release of Chrome can simply call up a Google search page or the Chrome start screen and say “OK, Google” to activate the voice command feature.

In an official blog post, Google software engineer and “search whisperer” Ji Adam Dou positions the new feature as a boon to the home cook.

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“If you've ever tried to cook and search at the same time – say, when your hands are covered in flour and you need to know how many ounces are in a cup – you know it can be tricky,” he wrote.

It's worth noting, as well, that a similar feature is available already for release channel Chrome users as an extension called Hotword Search. It works essentially the same way as the Beta feature.

The news makes Chrome the only widely used desktop browser to incorporate this feature by default, although there are Firefox extensions available that can provide largely the same functionality. The version of Internet Explorer included with Microsoft's Xbox One gaming console is well-known for its voice command features, although the desktop version of the software does not yet have that capability.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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