01
Jun
iconic
Last Updated: June 2nd, 2014

A while ago, we posted about information we'd received indicating that sometime soon, Google's search functionality (and other actions) would be expanding beyond the Search app, moving into other apps for device-wide search interaction and - eventually - app-specific functionality.

It appears that isn't the only Search trick Google is working on, though. According to the information available to us, Google is working on functionality for now known as KITT (get it?) or "Android Eyes Free" internally. This functionality would allow users to interact with Search without touching or even looking at their device, getting just what they want without any distraction.

Before we get started, I'll answer the question on everyone's mind - yes, it looks like Google is poised to open up "always-on" listening for the "Ok, Google" hotword. For now, it seems that detection while the display is turned off would require the device to be charging, though detection in apps or on the home screen would work any time. We'll discuss this further in a moment.

Of course, anything can happen, and we don't have any indication of when this functionality may appear to the public. All of that said, there's much more to talk about, so let's get started.

Disclaimer: No matter the confidence level, there's always a chance product updates, features, and some or all details will be changed or cancelled altogether. As with all rumors, nothing is 100% until it's officially announced.

We do not have possession of any APKs or unreleased devices, so please don't ask for them.

Confidence Level

For this rumor, we're going to go with a 9/10 confidence level. The functionality seen in the information available to us only seems like a natural progression of Search, and the information we have seen is recent enough to believe that this is still in active development, though - as is often the case - we can't really assume when this functionality will be publicly introduced, or if the interface will appear as it is now.

The Rumor

This rumor, though it seems simple, has a few important facets to consider. Essentially, Google wants to build in the kind of functionality seen in the Moto X to its own Search app. This means a special focus on Search at times that you can't or shouldn't be looking at your device for extended periods, or when you can't type on your device to interact with Search. The main objectives appear to be as follows: enable users to activate Search with minimal work from anywhere, provide an eyes-free interface for times when users shouldn't be looking at their device, and return results that don't require users to look at their device. We'll break these down in order.

IconicOnroad

First, Google wants to allow Search to be activated from anywhere (using only your voice), including your home screen or apps, or even when the device is turned off so long as it's charging. It's unclear right now whether devices with hardware capable of always-on listening will suffer this limitation, though the requirement may be a stop-gap while battery use is optimized overall. In other words capable hardware may suffer this limitation when the functionality is first released, but would likely gain always-on listening without the need for charging later, once battery usage is sorted.

Next is the car - outside of Gearhead, Google wants to provide a minimal, sparse interface for carrying out searches and other actions while driving, biking, or doing other things that require your concentration, in order to make things super easy while also avoiding any distraction. Users can choose to use Bluetooth devices or headsets to activate Search, but can also wave their hand over the device to initiate an interaction. The functionality would also read notifications aloud.

So, what about the times when your query returns only web results, and not a spoken or immediately visual response? Google has thought of that. First, Google will speak more detailed answers to you in the car for results that already include voice feedback. Instead of simply saying "here's the weather in [location]," it will read out the card. For results that only include web links, Google is exploring options for "keeping" the results for later, or suggesting the user exit eyes-free mode when it's safe to do so to view the results. This is an ongoing exploration, and Google is apparently still figuring out how to negotiate the sparse interface with queries for navigation, etc. where the screen would have to return to full interface.

For those instances where Google is acting on your behalf, the same sort of confidence-based delineation is drawn in the UX. Based on Google's confidence, it will either take implicit confirmation, meaning Google acts on its own (goes ahead and sends a message) after a short time unless the user hits a button or stops it manually, or explicit confirmation (when Google asks "do you want to send it?") where the user must reply or otherwise act to complete the action. Google seems to be taking great care in deciding which actions should use each method of confirmation, because every extra ounce of attention a user must pay to the interface adds more cognitive load to something other than driving, which can be unsafe.

The Evidence

From what we've seen, the way Google is accomplishing eyes-free search in the car is really smart. For this functionality, known internally as KITT, the Search interface is represented (possibly using Android's daydream feature) with a black screen accented only by the now signature blue and red circular interface elements indicating when Google is listening vs when it's talking, as well as extremely simple iconography and sparse text to indicate when a notification is being read aloud. Before we take a look, I'll note (as always) that these images are our own recreation of the interfaces we'll discuss, based on our information.

What is interesting about the "turn taking" behavior when Google needs more information to complete your task, is that the interface is even more sparse than what we saw in our post about Gearhead - the screen only shows the blue circle and a very minimal progress indicator at the bottom, to show how many more turns you may need to take before Google has all the information it needs to, for example, send a message.

wm_Eyesfree1 SpeakNow wm_Eyesfree2 wm_Eyesfree3

Our information also outlines what settings would be available to users, giving more detailed clues to functionality, and a nice look at the opt-in nature of the functionality. Most features can be switched on or off independent of other hands-free features.

wm_Settings1 wm_Settings2

Speaking of opting in, Google evidently plans to provide a very friendly onboarding process, with a Google Now card indicating the functionality, and a simple set of screens describing how it works. Here's what that will probably look like, according to our information. Of course, first-run flows are an area subject to great change, as Google finalizes features and decides which points are important to point out to the user.

 wm_Lure wm_Onboard2 wm_Onboard3 wm_Onboard4wm_Onboard5 wm_Onboard6

Final Thoughts

It's easiest to think of this as Google bringing functionality from the Moto X into the Google experience, adding its own UI style and a few extra tweaks to make the functionality its own. We can't be sure when this will be implemented, or if it will look exactly like what we've reviewed in this post, but it's clear to us that Google is working hard on a smart and useful way to keep your eyes (and fingers) off your phone when it's convenient.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Simon Belmont

    FINALLY. This is what I've been asking for.

    I just want my Nexus 5 to be always listening and have audible feedback of my command and me not having to take my eyes off of what I'm doing to make sure voice commands were processed correctly (using a command for reading back notifications, texts, messages, and dictated text before sending, for example, or telling me whose calling so I can use a command to accept or reject a call). I'm certain devices with the low-power listening core like the Nexus 5 (any Snapdragon 800 series device, really) will be able to listen with no real hit to the battery. If the above is true, then it's my dream come true. The Star Trek computer, more or less. Wow. I am so anticipating Google I/O, now.

    • Sandra Louis

      my&nbspbest&nbspfriend's&nbsphalf-sister&nbspΜ­­­­­­а­­­­­­K­­­­­­е­­­­­­ѕ&nbsp$­­­­­­75/հ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ս­­­­­­r&nbsp­ο­n&nbspthe&nbspі­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­ո­­­­­­е­­­­­­τ.&nbspShe&nbsphas&nbspbeen&nbsplaid&nbsp­ο­ff&nbspf­ο­r&nbspseven&nbspΜ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ­­­­­­ѕ&nbspbut&nbsplast&nbspΜ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ&nbspher&nbspρ­­­­­­а­­­­Уcheck&nbspwas&nbsp$­­­­­­15685&nbspjust&nbspW­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­r­­­­­­King&nbsp­ο­n&nbspthe&nbspі­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­ո­­­­­­е­­­­­­τ&nbspf­ο­r&nbspa&nbspϜ­­­­­­е­­­­­­W&nbspհ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rs.&nbspVisit&nbspThis&nbspLink,...&nbsphttp://Googleprojectjob&#x32&#48&#x31&#52thisifhdrsef4a...

      ✒✒✒ �✒✒✒ ✒✒✒ ✒✒✒� ✒✒✒

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS
  • Jovie Brett Bardoles

    Are those screenshots are mockups only? or a legitimate screenshots leaked from Google?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      As I state in the article, they're our mockups based on our information. They are as close as possible to the source, but we don't post source images for unreleased software.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Or else you could get fired from Google ;)

        • Kenton Douglas

          +1K :)

    • Simon Belmont

      Mockups. But they're based on information that AP has garnered on the subject.

      The might not be EXACTLY how it ends up being. But I bet they're close.

  • jamaall

    I already do this in my car with my droid maxx. It can be really annoying though when it won't listen. I'll say take me to location, but instead it does a search result. Kinda stupid. Navigate to location works though, but it doesn't confirm where its taking me unless I look at the screen. Hopefully they'll fix it with this new release.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      It seems that Google's putting a lot of thought into the appropriate interfaces for a car, and while we don't know much about the hand-offs for navigation yet, I have a feeling it will be a good experience.

      • jamaall

        I really hope so. Motorola has the always listening down, Google just needs to make the search app more user friendly

  • Sergei Goldenhands

    At last! Can't wait for this feature to be implemented.

    No more weird and broken Android Voice Dialer when I try to use Google Now with my Bluetooth receiver in the car.

  • siddude11

    I LOVE MS PAINT

  • redmafia

    We'll of course need voice recognition for more languages...

  • heat361

    If this ties into third party app functionality like previously rumored this will be big.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      We don't have reason to believe that users will be able to manipulate third party apps from Search in this manner - the "Ok Google Everywhere" post I think you're referring to was more about search working even while you use other apps, with the possibility of app-specific voice commands coming to those apps as well, but not commands for individual apps coming to the main search app.

      • heat361

        Ah OK so that doesn't apply to this post.

  • roadpro

    This was out years ago, it was called Vlingo and then Dragon bought it and screwd it up!

  • http://www.twitter.com/joshuaworth Joshua Worth

    The sooner the better

  • Barrett Jasper

    Awesome but there's a way now if rooted. Download Hi Google xposed mod and Xposed GEL and you're pretty much there. The hi Google xposed mod wakes device when screen off and the XPOSED GEL ads home screen columns and rows to the GNL already available.

    • John Samuel αΩ

      Hi Google appears to only work on the Note 3 and a few other devices. Doesn't even work on my Note Pro 12.2.

      • Barrett Jasper

        It's coming but yes. It does state which devices it works on. Mainly phones.

  • black

    Damn. And all this time I've been thinkin' AP was just a dump website...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      ಠ_ಠ

      Also what the hell is a dump website?

      • Zargh

        "Dump" -> Rom Dump -> APK download site is the most probable translation.

        Also FYI this particular article is crash happy on Moto G w/ Chrome (both stable & beta), might want to look into it.

        • Quentin SILVESTRE

          Yep, can't stop it from crashing on moto g either.

          • Calvin Uijlen

            It used 500MB RAM on Chrome Desktop Windows, crashed my PC..

  • stan

    Finally! Voice while driving is the killer app. They've been doing great thing with voice, but it's obscure to use the voice thing while with others or when walking down the street. Inside of a car is the best application for it - 1) a lot of times you're alone by yourself. 2) Not looking at your phone and keeping your focus on the road is highly desired.

    • Ryan Martin

      Yea. But a headset is a must. I try to do voice commands whilst driving and you have to wind the window up, turn the radio down etc.

  • Marcus Nailor

    Waiting for it to arrive on 04-June-2014 (Look at the clock people! It's always the hint!) ;)

    • Mattia

      They are mockups .__.

      • Marcus Nailor

        Hence ;) !! :)

        • Gabriel Moraes

          Still waiting..

  • Ray

    This is great I have OK Google xposed module working with nova launcher, gmail, YouTube, play store, play music, chrome and phone/contacts and it works flawlesslyhttp://forum.xda-developers.com/xposed/modules/mod-ok-google-3rd-party-launchers-t2765635

  • vgergo

    Will it have Moto X's "What's up?" too?

    • DYNA Logix

      We have an app for that: Touchless Notifications
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=hu.viczian.notifications.free

    • Simon Belmont

      My guess is you'll be able to ask Google Search "do I have any notifications?" It could even be more specific, too, like "Do I have any texts / emails / Hangouts messages?"

      My guess Google took a long time to bring this to fruition because it required a lot of fine tuning. Completely hands-free voice operation that's great in the usability isn't something that's easy to achieve, but hopefully we'll see it later this month.

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    What's the battery hit

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      That's still up in the air. Functionality like always-on listening will at first require the phone to be charging, with that limitation likely being lifted for devices with capable hardware once battery use is fine tuned.

      • dontsh00tmesanta

        Like motox

        • HungryShark

          And any/all snapdragon 805 devices, fingers crossed. I have been looking forward to this since the 805 was announced, best feature on phones in a while in my opinion.

          • Simon Belmont

            Yeah. All Snapdragon 800 series devices have the hardware to do low-power listening for voice command activation.

            So, everything from the Nexus 5, to the latest flagship that hasn't even come out yet should be able to use this. Can't wait.

        • Simon Belmont

          Like the Nexus 5 and all Snapdragon 800 series device. I'm certain Google will make always on listening debut on the Nexus 5.

          The Nexus 5 has the hardware. It just needed the software to use it and that's what this rumor is saying it will do.

          • dontsh00tmesanta

            I brought up the moto x since it already has such functionality via a dedicated CPU

          • Simon Belmont

            Yeah, I realize that. I'm just trying to assert that a lot of flagship devices from late 2013 and 2014 (and on) should be able to do this with no battery penalty. :)

            I know the Moto X already has its own implementation of this. I'm just excited about my Nexus 5 being able to join the party, so to speak. :D

          • dontsh00tmesanta

            I hope my HTC m8 can

          • Simon Belmont

            It should be able to. It has a Snapdragon 801 which has a low-power listening core.

            Any phone with that core should be able to do it. Cheers.

          • dontsh00tmesanta

            That's good

          • dontsh00tmesanta

            Tho I prolly won't use it much

  • kitten

    well, original KITT is still better, you can do it offline (without internet), lol

  • Justin Swanson

    I just hope I'll be able to send a hangouts message with hands free

    • Allen

      You already can

      • Sahil Chaturvedi

        Nope. it defaults to SMS.

        • Allen

          Ah, I assumed we meant SMS. My bad

          • Justin Swanson

            no worries I should have explained I wanted to send a IM via hangouts instead of SMS.

      • bobEveryman

        Yeah, if I tell it to "Send a hangout message to {Name}", it will send it, but as an SMS instead of a real Google Hangouts message.

  • AbbyZFresh

    Here we go again with spending 2 billion dollars for an app.

  • Myles Cox

    Hey. Whoever is animating these mockups.

    Please learn to ease your keyframes. It will look not terrible.

  • Allen

    This cool and everything, actually it's something I've been wishing for for a while. But Google seems to be missing the most important changes needed for Google Now.

    1. Mini cards (or collapsible cards)
    2. Prioritizable cards (weather should always be on top, IMO)
    3. A dock, like Blinkfeed in Sense

    This would make for the perfect home screen

    • HungryShark

      Collapsible cards could be integrated nicely. Good idea. Please google do this too.

  • ekerazha

    Can't wait to say "OK Google" and wake up other people's phone.

    • John Samuel αΩ

      "Okay Google. Delete C:/*.*"

    • Simon Belmont

      Probably won't work. Google will have an on-boarding process that learns your voice print for "OK Google."

      In other words, it should only activate for the owner's voice. So, if my phone is just sitting there on my desk at the office and you walk by and tried "OK Google," it shouldn't work for you.

      • JG

        That's how (if I'm not mistaken) the Moto phones work - they only respond to one person's voice...

        Though, I'm curious as to how multiple devices will function if Google adds Always Listening to Android proper. If, for example, I have my phone and tablet with me and say "OK Google call Mom" will the phone respond "Calling mom" at the same time the tablet is complaining it doesn't have call capabilities and suggest using hangouts instead?

        • Simon Belmont

          Exactly. The Moto X does it the same way with learning your voice print, and I'm glad Google is doing that, too, because I wouldn't want people randomly waking up my phone as a prank or something.

          You raise a good point about multiple devices. My guess is the tablet will know that it can't dial contacts unless it's using a VoIP app, like GrooveIP for example. In that case, I'm guessing one of the devices would just take precedence. Perhaps the last device you interacted with, sort of how Hangouts will automatically switch to the right method of communication based on which type of message you received last in the thread. This has to be why Google has taken so long to implement completely hands-free input and always listening. There are so many use case scenarios that need to be dealt with in a very thoughtful, and intuitive manner, and I bet it will be great.

  • pinetreehater

    I kind of already get this functionality by leaving my phone on the Google search screen while in my car dock. Amazingly, since I only have bluetooth telephony and not bluetooth streaming available in my truck (2008 Armada), the phone routes my voice commands through the dialer...where the phone speak the results back via bluetooth (like I was in a call, but not). Hard to explain, but it has been doing it for a while. The phone's own internal microphone is sensitive enough to here me say, "OK Google," to which it fires up and processes my commands.

    • Simon Belmont

      You're lucky. Most older in-car systems won't route commands to the phone connected via Bluetooth.

      Well, some of the newer ones do. But yours is six years old.

  • didibus

    Finally!

  • abobobilly

    I think a Cortana-like replacement will do a better job so yeah, bring it on. (Loving Cortana from Windows Phone btw. She just has a better and pleasing personality, which Siri never had)

  • Nicholas Polydor

    Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone is going to be *very* interesting next year with initiatives such as this pitted against the release of Windows 9 and universal apps.