Although this feature has been available for a while in the developer build, Google Now voice search has arrived in the Chrome 27 stable channel. Users can now click the microphone button, ask a question in a natural way, and receive spoken answers when possible.
Google Now for Chrome isn't exactly chatty like Apple's Siri – at least not at this writing -- which will even answer stupid questions like "did you fart" (yes I seriously go there). Instead, Google Now will vocally respond to certain questions like "what is the weather like" or "what's playing at the movies" or "show my Gmail messages" while pulling up visual results. On all other occasions, Google Now will visually type out what the user is asking, and then silently pull up results.
To get voice search to work, Chrome must be updated to v27.0.1453.93 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. After that, simply head to Google and hit that little microphone button on the right side of the search field. As it stands now, there's no "Ok Google" to get the ball rolling, so users must click the icon to activate Google Now. After that, Chrome asks for permission to use the microphone (just once), and then the red icon appears, waiting for your voice input.
The results are cool to say the least. When asked how old Barack Obama is in a recent test, Google Now's female voice boomed through the speakers with a verbal response along with an information card and similar search results. When asked if it farted, Google Now simply pulled up a few YouTube links and other gas-passing tidbits -- Siri would respond by saying and writing "I have no comment". When asking Google Now "what's my name", she verbally responded "oh no did you forget your name" and pulled up search results from amnesia. Awesome.
However Search Engine Land has actually gotten the "conversational" aspect to work although it took several attempts to get it right. For example, after asking how old the President is, users reportedly can ask "how tall is he" without having to rename the President. Google Now will respond with both a verbal and text-based message. Apparently Google Now understands that "he" is Barack Obama, and even names Michelle Obama when asked "who is his wife" and brings up her age after asking "how old is she".
"Conversational search doesn’t always work right," the site states. "The further you go into a conversation, I’ve found, the more likely it will eventually stumble. Sometimes, it won’t even converse when you’d expect it to."
Meanwhile, Google has officially updated Chrome for Android, offering improved search and full-screen browsing. Chrome for iPhone and iPad with voice search is rolling out in the next few days as well, allowing iOS users to speak their searches in the omnibox. Tap the microphone app, and users can say their search query aloud and see the results – perhaps even verbal ones – without having to type.
As for the Android version, the new search function essentially gets rid of the search box, thus allotting more space for results. Previously users would enter a search query directly into Chrome's omnibox (URL bar) but the results would not only turn that query into a long URL, but add an additional search field below it with the query in the box. This new facelift just makes more room for search results (see left).
"To make browsing the mobile web even easier, web pages also display in fullscreen on phones," Google said on Wednesday. "As you scroll, the top toolbar disappears so you can immerse yourself in the web page content. When you scroll up, the toolbar returns so you can get on to the next thing."