Ever since Google Now became a thing, Search has been the go-to voice command hub for all of Android. There has been one nagging issue, however: when using a Bluetooth headset, a long-press of the action button would bring up the tired old Voice Dialer, which is essentially useless for anything other than making a call. What if I just have to know how tall Joakim Noah is while out cycling.
Google's voice search function is undeniably cool, and it's only getting better since the company has expanded the capabilities of the Android Search/Google Now app. However, there's one tragic flaw in the execution of voice actions: they can't make popcorn. But if you add some of Android's most powerful root-enabled tools, namely Tasker, the Xposed Framework, and the previously-featured AutoVoice, the sky's the limit. With the right hardware and tinkering, you can start living your Starfleet dreams in jig time.
Easily one of the coolest features of the Moto X (and its sister DROID devices on Verizon) is the Touchless Control function, which allows users to say "OK Google Now" from anywhere and activate voice actions. That functionality is built in to Android 4.4... with some rather hefty limitations.
First of all, the "OK Google" command will be hardware-dependent. Google isn't saying exactly what the required silicon is, but at the moment, only the Nexus 5 will have access to the feature - even the other Nexus devices due to be updated won't be able to join in.
If your device has Android 4.1 or higher, a new Google Search update is rolling out in the Play Store that brings a handful of new and useful features, which includes a couple of additional voice actions:
What's in this version:
For Android 4.1+ (Jelly Bean):
- Information about shows you're watching on your internet-connected TV (US only)*
- Saved offers when nearby a redemption location
- New voice action: play music from your phone or the Play Store
- Voice actions tips
* Requires phone/tablet to be on the same network as your TV
The most notable new features here are of course TV show information and voice actions to play music.
Here at Android Police, we love Google Now (and all the associated voice actions), but the natural language could use a bit of sprucing up. If you'd like to try an alternative voice assistant, Indigo may grab your attention on this front. The pitch here is that the app remembers your conversations and can sync those inquiries across devices.
If you ask a question like, "Where can I find Indian food around here?" you'll get a list of results.
When Google announced Keep last week, one of the coolest features we learned about is the ability to accept the "note to self" command that has been part of Google's Voice Actions since the Froyo days. Previously, this would send an email to your own account with the transcribed text and the original audio file. Keep allowed users to send that data to a proper note-taking app instead. Well, as it turns out, Catch wants in on that voice action, so in a recent update, it's added the ability as well.
Nuance released its take on voice actions – Dragon Mobile Assistant – back in October of 2012, aiming to put "a Jarvis-like mini-mobile voice-enabled assistant" by your side. That's a huge order to fill, but the company is definitely edging towards a fully voice-controlled mobile, and today's update makes the app even more useful by adding a handful of new features.
This is why it's great that Google unbundles core apps from the OS. While it might take a considerable amount of time before the newest version of Jelly Bean rolls out to your device, current Android 4.1 users can upgrade Google Search right now and get access to the latest improvements to Google Now. The list of fun new features includes additional cards (like Stocks, News, Concerts, and Packages), as well as voice actions, including the glorious ability to add events to your calendar with via speech.