Chrome OS gets 'OK Google' voice search control

Greasy fingers? You can now tell Google's browser-based operating system what to search for by voice when you have a blank or Google search tab open.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

People can now initiate a search on Chrome OS with the "OK Google" voice-search command. interf
You can now initiate a search on Chrome OS with the "OK Google" voice-search command. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google, continuing to spread its voice-search capability, has added the ability to launch searches from its Chrome OS operating system using the "OK Google" command.

The newly released Chrome OS version 35 brings the "hotwording" support to new tabs and Google search pages -- including pages already showing search results.

To use the feature, you must enable OK Google voice searching with a checkbox in the privacy section of Chrome OS's advanced settings. The feature, which arrived in the Chrome browser earlier this year, is available for people using US English.

The "OK Google" hotword can provide a handy way to initiate searches, for cooks with dirty hands or kids who aren't good at typing, for example. It can be rough around the edges, though, sometimes misunderstanding words or not understanding when you've finished speaking. In the latter case, adding the word "question" can get Google to stop listening and start searching.

The feature is important for Google: the more people use its search technology, the more opportunities it has to show the ads that are the mainstay of the company's revenue. The company has been building voice-control technology into its services to try to adapt computing technology to natural human interactions.

Chrome and Chrome OS require people to specifically enable the "OK Google" feature through the privacy section of the advanced settings.
You're required to specifically enable the "OK Google" feature in privacy settings. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google offers a number of other options with the voice interface, too, such as setting calendar appointments. It's more limited on Chrome OS than on Android, though. You can't use it to "launch Gmail" for example -- at least not yet.

Chrome OS is a browser-based operating system that runs Web apps such as Google Docs and Facebook, instead of Windows and Mac apps stored on your machine like Photoshop or iTunes. It's offered on laptops called Chromebooks that can make a good second machine at home or an easy-to-administer option for schools and some businesses.

Google also updated other versions of its Chrome browser. The stable version of Chrome 35 fixed 23 security bugs. And Chrome 35 for Android lets you reopen a tab you just closed and use the browser in some mobile devices that offer multiple windows.