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How to activate “OK Google” voice search on your Chromebook

Experimental new feature leaves Google voice search always-on

Chromebooks will soon allow users to conduct a voice search by saying “OK Google” whenever the computer is switched on – but you can turn on the experimental new feature now. Google’s voice features not only allow you to conduct searches, but ask basic questions of the search engine, such as “will it rain today” or “what’s 23 times 6”, and get an answer in return. 

Google evangelist François Beaufort has posted instructions on how to activate voice search right away on his Google+ page, which are as follows. First, open a browser window on your Chromebook and enter “chrome://flags”. Then scroll down the list of experimental features and check that “Enable experimental ‘OK Google’ hot word detection features” is set to Enabled. Restart your Chromebook, go to the Chrome OS Settings and tick the box next to “Enable ‘Ok Google’ to start a voice search” to train your device to respond to the sound of your voice, by saying “Ok Google” three times.

You don’t need a Chromebook to take advantage of voice search, although the feature is a little more limited on PCs and Macs. Chrome browser users can go to Settings, click on the Show Advanced Settings link at the foot of the page, and check the box that says “Enable OK Google to start a voice search”. Then, whenever your browser is on the Google homepage you can say the magic words to conduct a voice search, provided your laptop/PC has a microphone, of course. 

The feature is also available to owners of smartphones running the stock Android OS. They can say “OK Google” to instigate a voice search whenever the phone is switched on and unlocked. If your phone is from a manufacturer such as Samsung or HTC, which runs an adapted version of Android, you can install the free Google Now Launcher to take advantage of the feature, but this will replace your existing home screen. 

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Voice-activated assistants are a key battleground for the leading tech companies at the moment. Microsoft is heavily promoting the Cortana voice assistant in Windows Phone, and it has also appeared in a leaked build of Windows 10. Google has been running a television advertising campaign to highlight voice search on various devices, whilst Apple’s Siri remains a heavily promoted feature of iPhones and iPads.   


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