Voice-activated Google search comes to Chrome

Voice-enabled Google search is one of my favorite features on Android-based smartphones and tablets. (There's an app for that, too.) Now, the same functionality has come to Windows via an extension for Chrome. The Google Voice Search Hotword extension is available in beta form, and it's pretty straightforward. Google explains:

"Ok Google" has always sounded a little goofy to me. I've never triggered a voice search accidentally, though. The speech recognition is excellent, and so is Google's ability to provide actual answers and information instead of just a list of relevant links. The reminder integration with Google Now is pretty neat, as well.

If you can't get the extension to work, make sure you're using Google.com rather than a regional version of the search page. It seems the extension can't listen in the background on regional sites like Google.ca. Regional pages will still respond to spoken searches if users click the microphone icon in the search field.

Although I have the extension installed, I doubt I'll end up using it much on my desktop system. This machine's only microphone is tied to a headset hanging on the wall next to me, too far away to pick up anything I say. Voice-enabled search is more appealing for systems with built-in microphones. Mobile users beware, though. Listening for "Ok Google" consumes additional battery power. The extension has a five-minute cut-off option for folks who want to preserve battery life.

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