Skip to main content

Google offers hands-free voice search for computers running Chrome

google hands free voice search chrome
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As we all know from experience, doing a Google search on your desktop or laptop isn’t always easy, especially when you’re cleaning out a fish tank, putting up shelves, or honing your juggling skills.

Thanks to a new extension launched by Google on Tuesday, however, such tricky situations can now be a thing of the past – so long as you’re a user of the Web giant’s Chrome browser, that is.

To get the ‘Google Voice Search Hotword’ extension, just head over to its page on the Chrome Web Store and click on the blue ‘free’ button. Another click on ‘add’ and you’re well on your way to truly hands-free operation of the world’s most-used search engine.

The final step entails giving permission for your computer’s mic to be used, and then you’re away. Just as with Google Now for mobile devices, all you need to say is “OK Google” before speaking your search query. No typing or mouse clicks needed.

Notes accompanying the new tool explain that it only sends your utterances to Google “when it hears the phrase ‘OK Google,’” presumably to reassure users that idle conversations with others in your home, or chats with yourself, aren’t sent down the tubes to its Mountain View base.

Oh, and if after a couple of tries the whole experience just doesn’t suit your sensibilities, you can delete the extension by clicking on ‘Chrome’ at the top left of your screen, then ‘extensions’ in the left column. After that it’s simply a case of clicking on the trash can beside the Google Voice Search Hotword listing.

The Internet company introduced voice search for computers running Chrome at its I/O event back in May, though up until now you’ve had to click on the mic icon inside the search box to activate the feature. From today, however, you can leave your hands to one side.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Oops — Google Bard AI demo is disproven by the first search result
A Google blog post discussing its LaMBDA artificial intelligence technology displayed on a smartphone screen.

These are heady days if you’re following the world of artificial intelligence (AI). ChatGPT is taking over the world, Microsoft is adding its tech to Bing, and Google is working on its own AI called Bard.

Except, Bard might not quite be ready for prime time -- and Google just proved it during its own tech demonstration. Oops.

Read more
How ChatGPT could help Microsoft dethrone Google Search
A person on the Google home page while using a MacBook Pro laptop on a desk.

Microsoft is attempting to dethrone Google as the search champion by integrating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine. That’s according to a new report from The Information -- but will the gamble pay off?

ChatGPT only launched in November 2022, but it’s already been making waves among artificial intelligence researchers and the general public alike due to the unerring realism of its output. Chuck in any prompt you can think of and you’ll get back something that keenly resembles human-generated text, and people have been using it to write articles, generate code, and compose musical scores.

Read more
Google may have just fixed Chrome’s most annoying problem
A Macbook with Google Chrome opened to a Gmail inbox.

While Google Chrome is one of the best web browsers, over the years it has gained a reputation for being something of a resource hog, gobbling up your PC’s memory like it’s going out of style. That can be a problem if you’re running other resource-heavy tasks and don’t want things to slow down. Now, Chrome has been updated with two new features that cut down on memory usage and extend your laptop’s battery life, according to Google. The changes are set to roll out today with the latest release of Chrome on desktop (version m108).The first new feature, dubbed Memory Saver, is designed to reduce the amount of memory Chrome’s tabs use. It does this by freeing up memory from inactive tabs, and putting them to sleep so they can’t monopolize your system’s resources. When you need to access the tabs again, they will be reloaded and become active. The goal of Energy Saver, meanwhile, is fairly self-explanatory -- helping your laptop battery last longer -- but it does so in a somewhat interesting way. When your battery drops to 20%, Chrome will try to prolong your battery life by “limiting background activity and visual effects for websites with animations and videos.”Presumably, this means Chrome will limit the kind of flashy effects that have made a comeback in web design in recent years. Google says that when these new features launch, users will still be able to customize them to their liking. You can disable either Memory Saver or Energy Saver (or both), and mark certain websites as exempt in Chrome’s settings. The changes could turn out to be important. While Chrome has managed to become the dominant Windows web browser and one of the best browsers for Mac, it has been plagued by poor memory management for years. If Memory Saver and Energy Saver are able to help ameliorate that -- and make your battery last longer too -- then Google might have gone some way to fixing Chrome’s biggest problem. Both Memory Saver and Energy Saver will be launched globally over the next few weeks. The features are coming to Chrome on Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS.

Read more