Google has finally brought voice-activated search, first seen on the Moto X, to the Chrome browser. If you have Chrome and a microphone, you can try it out right now — but it's not quite as useful as its mobile predecessor.
Installing the "hotword" extension makes it so that whenever your browser is open to the Google.com homepage or a search results page, all you need to do to dictate a search is start it out with "OK Google." It'll jump to the ordinary "Speak now" page and the rest works just like a normal voice search would.
Could be useful if your hands are occupied and you need to make a quick unit conversion (how many ounces in a cup?) or check the traffic to see if your guests will be late. There are a few limitations, though.
The Moto X is always listening, whether it's asleep or awake, and "OK Google Now" will bring up the voice search interface pretty much no matter what. But in Chrome, the tab has to be front and center. If it's a background tab, it just won't activate — so you may have to use your hands to get the hands-free search ready to go in the first place.
And at the moment it only works on the U.S. version of Google search — not Google UK, Google Brazil, and so on, and not from within Gmail or Drive. Just the standard ".com" homepage or search page.
Google will surely be expanding the capabilities of the voice search plugin, but for now it's mostly just a neat trick that lets you feel high-tech. Still, if it saves you from dripping grease on the keyboard this Thanksgiving, it'll be a welcome addition, however limited it may be. Download it here for free.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published November 26 2013, 3:33 PM