Google Delivers Voice Search Hotword Extension for Chrome

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 27, 2013

In a post from a couple of days ago called "Are Voice Commands Headed for Chrome OS?" I covered Chromium guru Francois Beaufort's sneaky but interesting Google+ missive, where he suggested how voice commands might work. Well, just two days later, the Google team has another Google+ note up, and it announces that the company has launched the Google Voice Search Hotword extension for Chrome, which takes the 'OK Google' feature to the desktop for any users of the Chrome browser. The extension is in beta testing, but you can download it now from the Chrome Web Store.

According to the Google+ post:

"It’s that time of year… the in-laws are coming for a tasty Turkey Day dinner. You’re elbow-deep in your turkey, ready to start the stuffing and you need to quickly calculate how many ounces of walnuts are in a cup. This year, rather than stopping midway through to wash your hands and type in a search, you can just speak to your laptop: “Ok Google, how many ounces are in one cup?” Et voila, the cooking can go on. You can also say “Ok Google, set a timer for 30 minutes” so you don’t forget to baste that turkey. To access hands-free search on your laptop, just download the Google Voice Search Hotword extension from the Chrome Web Store: (available in English in the U.S.)."

Sorry non-English speakers, this extension doesn't cater to you, but it does signal a new direction from Chrome, and it's likely that the speech recognition features in this extension will get better very quickly.

As I pointed out in a post on Monday, the latest version of Android, KitKat, also includes responsiveness to voice commands, and there is one other interesting thing to take note of: Google recently hired futurist and tech pundit Ray Kurzweil, who is one of the world's leading experts on speech recognition and the pattern recognition science behind it. Kurzweil also specializes in text-to-speech technology, and has brought products to market based on it. Is the new voice extension for Chrome a product of Kurzweil's imagination. Could be.

On Slashdot today, there is an interesting point made about whether Mozilla and Firefox could answer Google with speech recognition for Firefox. The post points out: "Quick, someone wire Pocketsphinx up to Firefox."

If you're unfamiliar with Pocketsphinx, it's an open source toolkit for speech recognition, and the Mozilla team could indeed leverage it to bring simple voice commands to Firefox. Are we soon going to be talking to our browsers?