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article imageGoogle removes always-on 'OK Google' voice search from Chrome

By James Walker     Oct 17, 2015 in Technology
The latest version of the Google Chrome web browser, released earlier this week, removed support for always-on listening for the 'OK Google' hot-word to start voice searches. Google says it is hardly ever used but the move has upset those who do.
As ZDNet reports, the feature was removed in the Chrome 46 update. It is now present only on the ChromeOS version of the browser and cannot be accessed from Windows, Mac OS X or Linux.
Google hasn't dropped support for voice input altogether. Voice searches can still be started by clicking the microphone icon in the search box but at this point you may as well just type the query anyway.
VentureBeat asked Google why they had decided to remove "OK Google" from the desktop versions of Chrome. It was told that the feature is very rarely used and so has been removed for simplicity's sake. When people do search for things using their voice, they are more likely to just pick up their phone and use Google Now, Siri or Cortana in a more streamlined process than was ever possible on a desktop computer or laptop.
In Chrome, the hot-word was never enabled by default and had to be manually configured from within the browser's settings. Once set up, users could start a voice search in Chrome at any time by saying "OK Google" followed by their query in a similar way to using Google Now on a smartphone.
By removing the option, it is no longer possible to make hands-free web searches directly in Chrome. This may please Microsoft as a key part of its Windows 10 operating system is Cortana, a digital assistant which also provides support for always-on listening.
The disappearance of "OK Google" in Chrome may push the people who did use it towards saying "Hey Cortana" and performing their search in Bing and Microsoft Edge. Google could inadvertently end up giving three of Microsoft's key services a few extra users in the cases of those who actively took advantage of hands-free searches.
Always-on voice searches aren't the only thing Google is removing from Chrome. In an effort to simplify the browser, the company is clearing out the areas that most people infrequently use. Next on the list is the desktop Notification Center that lives in the system tray on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and is designed to collect notifications from web apps for future review. In practice, few apps actually send notifications through Notification Center and even fewer users frequently check it, so Google will be axing it in a few weeks in Chrome 47.
Other changes in Chrome 46, released this week, include the simplification of the website security icon. It now has three states instead of four, due to the removal of the often confusing "mixed errors" icon that was supposed to show that a site should be secure but may rely on insecure connections to load some content. The icon will be further refined in the future to indicate at-a-glance whether an individual page is secure or not.
More about Google, Chrome, Google chrome, Voice, Search
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