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Google Drops Desktop Voice Search In Chrome ( 51

PC World reports that even as Microsoft is pushing voice input on the desktop (in the form of an expanded role for its Cortana digital assistant), Google is responding to user (dis)interest in searching by voice from the desktop, by dropping "OK Google"-based voice commands in the latest iteration of Chrome. This seems too bad to me, so I wish they'd at least leave the voice input as an option; I've only lately been getting comfortable with search by voice on my phone, and though I've found the results to be hit or miss (my phone responds a bit too often to "OK," and seems to stumble even on some common words, spoken clearly), when it works I really like it.
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Google Drops Desktop Voice Search In Chrome

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  • hmmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Ok google, go away

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @05:42AM (#50752685)

    There's a very narrow and specific set of circumstances where using it makes sense; but, in general, it's actually slower and takes more work to use it than the traditional methods of input.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      What makes it useless is that you can only search with your voice, and then you have to use the mouse anyway. What's the point of a hands free mode if after you say "OK Google, show me some midget clown porn" you have to take your hand off the joystick to operate the mouse?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2015 @07:36AM (#50752853)

        This is why Google needs to collect MORE data on my browsing habits - after a few weeks of grab-my-dick-'n'-double-click it knows exactly which midget clowns will most titillate me. Hell, it could pre-empt the times of day I'm likely to spank the monkey and be all, "Dave, your midget clown porn is ready for your regular morning meat-beating." It'd even know how quickly/slowly I like to browse through the pictures. I'd have to give it some sort of exception to the appointment like, "OK, Google, when my mother-in-law visits, ixnay on the idget clown pornmay." and if it isn't sure who my MiL is I can tell it to monitor my Fitbit for signs of severely increased blood pressure and dread.

        Meanwhile, Microsoft would have a Clippy pop up on the screen and ask, "It looks like you're choking the chicken - would you like some help gripping that?" and before I know it a wiry piece of metal is wrapped round my John Thomas, grazing it to buggery, and I'm begging for forgiveness for all the times I made fun of people for suggesting it's time for Linux on the desktop.

        The future is now!

    • The real question is how much more does it cost google to keep desktop voice search maintained vs their mobile devices. I personally don't use it, on any device, but it would seem to me that keeping a desktop version is rather simple, as all the real work is on the back end. Unless there are people are finding it easy to abuse it on the desktop environment.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      That of course reflects the current iteration rather than the potential. So phone in top pocket, can you unlock the phone and issue a command, that is the main circumstance that makes sense, for a full range of commands, from making a call, to getting the date and time to getting directions. Also how far can the phone be from you and still take commands and make a spoken reply. Also how many commands with varied inputs are accessible.

      The problem is how much training of both the user and the phone languag

  • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @05:46AM (#50752687) Homepage

    Voice search on the phone is natural. The phone is a device that historically is good at one thing, voice. Even though a modern phone has a decent keyboard input, t's still clumsy when on the go. When I'm out for a run or a ride and I want quick directions, or to dictate a note, send a text message, or check the train schedule, the voice interaction is vastly superior to wrestling my phone out of it's armband and typing something. The voice interaction isn't amazing, but it works about 80% of the time on the first try and that's good enough for me. I don't have to stop my workout and fumble around.

    On the other hand, when I'm sitting at my desk I can, with two key strokes switch to my web browser and launch a new search tab. I can type about as fast as I can speak and my accuracy is probably around 95%; google makes up for the remaining 4% in spelling errors (searching for instead of ). I get better accuracy and less fumbling around if the room is loud. Also, in our quiet open-plan office I look like a total D-Bag talking to my monitor. That's a big plus. too.

    The full-size keyboard isn't the end-all of interfaces, but for a desktop it's waaaay better than voice search. If voice search ever gets to the point where I can throw out a complex, natural language queries into the air a la ST-TNG, I'll switch. "Computer: Post a witty comment to SlashDot about voice interfaces and how bad they sucked in the naughties and teens"

  • by Sigvatr ( 1207234 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @06:10AM (#50752725)
    Some disabled people are going to be very sad
    • by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @06:47AM (#50752765)

      Some disabled people are going to be very sad

      If you are disabled enough to require voice control over your computer then you probably want to operate more than just Chrome and will have some more system-wide software in operation. It won't make much difference to them (in fact, it may be better as you don't have two different systems trying to listen to your voice).

    • Chromebooks will still have voice recognition - and it's system-wide, too. So for blind people (and I am getting there) Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are a good choice.

  • I use it on my mobile sometimes because it seems quicker and easier than wrestling with the on-screen keyboard. On a device with a real keyboard I have no use for it.

    • Yes, I can ask my iPhone to "Call home" or "Navigate to Joseph Blow" in full sunlight without having to squint at anything. Voice control is really worth it on mobiles because it gives me easy access to while sets of operations at once, as in "Set timer for three minutes" when I'm taking medication.

  • Earlier, Google was criticized for adding a binary module to Chromium []

    It seems like the offending code as well as the functionality may have disappeared.

  • by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @06:28AM (#50752739) Homepage

    I'm all for removing stuff that isn't used much. It leads to larger binaries. Anything to reduce the size and complexity is a Good Thing.

    I've never used voice search in Chrome, so for me it's not a big deal. However, since Google already have all that code written, there's no reason for them to just put it all into a plugin and stick it into the Chrome Store. Then those who want it can still have it.

    The server tech isn't going to go away, as it's used for Voice Search on Android (which I do use frequently), so it shouldn't be a big deal for them to have it as a plugin.

  • There might be disinterest because it was a 'hidden setting' (at least for the longest time). I know I wasn't using it because it stopped working for no reason about two months ago. I assumed they just broke it like they do the rest of their stuff every time they touch something and force the update, or discontinue something I found useful. Forgive me while I rant for a moment...

    These days I don't invest any time in anything Google does because I know it's going to be perpetually half broken until the day they silently drop it or decide to screw it up a la Maps while the community screams at the top of their lungs that the new version is shit. My theory on Google is that it isn't run by software engineers and sysadmins anymore, but rather by UI and UX focused kids straight out of school.

    I have patches in the Linux kernel and I can't freakin' figure out how to send a text to a person I know since they mangled Google Voice into Hangouts. As an added bonus, when I send a call with Google Voice it no longer allows me to, you know, select which phone it should call me on - that's exactly half of the dialer's job and they couldn't get that in the product requirements apparently. I get more angry every time I log into to set which phone to call and there's a banner across the top that reminds me that I should use the Hangouts interface for using Voice. This is the quality of engineering left at Google.

    My final "no shits to give" moment was when they discontinued the NaCL plugin architecture in Chrome with a smug "we told you a long time ago we were going to do this, you should have migrated your stuff." To which I wanted to wipe the smug away with a hammer while shouting "I didn't write our hardware vendor's frakkin' web client, I can't rewrite it and we need to be able to access IPMI interfaces for hundreds of boxes out in the field!" Needless to say, we're transitioning away from our Enterprise Google Apps/Docs/Domain account back to Microsoft (again). Those stories aren't related in any way other than I didn't bother putting up a fight when we were acquired and it was decided we'd use MS Office - I suspect I'm not the only one that didn't want to burn political capital on Google.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... while the community screams at the top of their lungs ...

      That is the part that gets me. Every time something changes in a google product and it's something I notice/use, I go look into it and see mountains of people saying "wtf is going on, this is a terrible change, please change it back/remove it/!" Further down the given page, someone posts a link to another discussion with some google employee or another effectively saying "too bad, have a nice day."

      So it's not that they aren't hearing the feedback, they just don't seem to care. Their browser is heading do

  • Let's face it, voice search makes sense on a phone where typing is usually quite a bit of a hassle. Is there anyone here who actually likes those on-screen keyboards (which makes me wonder what genius thought it's a smart move to no longer make phones with an actual keyboard and that it's so much more convenient to type on a virtual keyboard on a friggin' screen. I'd consider forcing him to use it a suitable punishment, but I think that would collide with that "cruel and unusual" part of some constitution)?

  • by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @07:43AM (#50752863) Homepage

    On my phone, "Okay, Google" can be set to respond in any application, or even when the phone is off.

    On the desktop, "Okay, Google" only works if you've already opened up a search page.... at which point you may as well type your search.

    I have very often wished that "Okay, Google" on Chrome were as convenient as on my phone - or that I could tell my phone to redirect results to my Desktop.

    But once again, Google has decided that "our UI was so inconvenient that nobody ever used our product" translates to "nobody wants to use a feature similar to this"

    • by gilgongo ( 57446 )

      Perhaps it was the UI (and they certainly didn't experiment much with that before they canned it), but to be fair, voice control is only really viable if you're on your own. And unlike phones, where input can be tricky, the keyboard is likely quicker and more accurate in pretty much every circumstance.

      • Because I live in a world where I *don't* need to be tethered 24/7 to my desktop, it's nice to be able to quickly say "Okay, Google: " when I am in the same room, but not actually sitting at the keyboard.

        "Okay, Google: " is fairly useless for anything that I don't have my phone out for, though.

  • This is so much more about physical keyboard vs touch pad than it is about voice recognition.

  • I've been toying around with this [] to get voice controls on desktop. Seems OK but finding a good noise cancelling room mic is key. Another benefit here is you don't need a server transaction to analyze your voice as many "personal assistant" softwares seem to do.
  • Google is going to come out with their own home automation suite like Amazon's Echo.

    They bought GrandCentral years ago to turn into Google Voice. Their 'product' was the voice mail speech-to-text. They just wanted to train their voice systems.

    Their 'Desktop' was a stop gap between being on the phone and being in the home. What ever demographic always used it, they're going to make a product and target it to them. They already know the age, geographic location, household, etc of everyone that uses their brow

  • "though I've found the results to be hit or miss (my phone responds a bit too often to "OK," and seems to stumble even on some common words, spoken clearly), when it works I really like it."

    What I found works for me is to turn on the voice sampling that Google will store and use to recognize your voice.
    My voice searches are flawless now, even with a cold, even right after I get up, and even when drunk.
    If you don't mind giving Google your vocal samples, the voice search gets quite good.

  • Sure you like it when voice search hits the target. One thing I noticed was that animals, in a general sense, tend to like positive results and dislike negative ones. "I really like it when it works" shouldn't be enough of a justification for Google to keep that unused Chrome feature. You don't see a programmer saying "OK, Google. JavaScript array into object how to" out loud in an office full of colleagues just waiting to throw you everything they got just for the 2 minutes of fun mocking you...
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @11:46AM (#50753631)

    It always surprises me that these sorts of changes come down as a decree rather than being turned into an option.

    It's as if the notion that "some people might still want this" is a foreign concept. It eliminates the user having any choice in the matter, which to me seems the opposite of what computers are all about: choice and personalization.

    Obviously Google had a reason to do this, but still- why not allow it as an option?

    I just don't get this "my way or the highway" dictate coming down from on high...would it have been so hard or cost so much to make this a user-selectable option?

  • ...this week Chrome Desktop Audio Search. Could it be that Google is trying to force users off the desktop altogether? I mean clearly Microsoft has failed at that with its big Mobile First push. Perhaps Google can get it done.
  • "OK Google what time is it in London?"

    "Here is a supplier of extra small condoms."

  • If other -people- can't understand what you say, a lot of the time, what makes you think a dumb computer will understand?? 8-)

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