Hidden code in the Google Play Music app points to fully featured voice control

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On Android, it’s easy enough to start a music playlist with a voice command, but skipping tracks, switching albums, and playing songs on repeat is a bit harder to perform hands-free. If you’re a Google Play Music user, Google Now, Google’s eponymous virtual assistant, has dutifully performed those tasks for quite some time, but the Play Music app itself has always conspicuously lacked built-in voice controls — an obvious problem for folks who’d rather not use Now.

Thankfully, that may not be the case much longer. According to an eagle-eyed contributor to smartphone developer forum XDA, an in-development feature of Google Play Music allows you to control most elements of playback with voice. A disabled bit of backstage code slots a microphone icon adjacent to the Play Music app’s top-right options menu, and points to server-side support for playing and pausing tunes with voice. It doesn’t hint at what exactly what you’ll be able to dictate when/if the feature goes live, unfortunately, but it’s a safe bet Now’s current commands — “pause,” “play,” “shuffle,” “next song,” and “previous song,” to name a few — will make the jump.

Play Music’s not the only element of Android to gain vocal chops in recent months. In March, Google debuted Voice Access, a hands-free accessibility app that lets you open apps, navigate menus, and interact your smartphone’s screen by voice. And late last year, Google launched voice actions for Now, a feature that lets third-party apps like NPR One and TripAdvisor add custom verbal prompts to Google Now (e.g., “OK Google, listen to NPR”).

Wondering if the Play Music app will be able to interpret verbal commands without an internet connection? If the code’s references to Google servers are any indication, offline functionality is unlikely. But that’s not to say it couldn’t land in a future update. A March study by Google Research, Google’s R&D division, revealed that the company’s working on a machine learning-powered Google Now that’s not only entirely offline, but up to seven times faster than the current, internet-based Now.

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