Speak up: Android gets more hands-free with additional voice commands

Sure you can talk on your phone but you can get a lot done by talking to your phone, thanks to a broader set of voice commands on Android phones and tablets.

Following 70 new Google Now partner app integrations earlier this week, Google is adding more voice commands for Android phones. The company shared details on its Google+ page on Thursday afternoon encouraging Android device owners to "stop typing and start talking":

Did you know you can ask the #Googleapp to put your other Android apps to work? Starting today, you can say things like, "Ok Google, Shazam this song," or "Ok Google, listen to NPR."

Google has continued to evolve its voice commands beyond simple search for some time. The hands-free "OK Google" command has moved from a simple query function to one that can control phone settings, create calendar reminders and launch apps. You can say, for example, "OK Google, open Maps" without touching your phone or tablet, if it supports and is configured for the always listening feature.

It's not just Google's own apps such as Maps, Search and Chrome that can be opened by voice though; with the most recent version of Android and supported apps, third-party software can be accessed as well.

After adding voice integration with Nest, which Google owns, I've often raised or lowered the temperature in my home office by saying "OK Google, set temperature to.... " and the desired temp. There's no need to manually unlock my phone, find and open the Nest app and then dial in the temperature.

Voice interaction is a key element of Google's Android Wear smartwatch platform as well. In fact, it's often quicker to open apps by voice than by scrolling through the utilitarian list of third-party watch apps. And the company has extended voice controls in the past to the Chrome browser as well as Chromebooks: With this setting enabled, you can speak commands to your computer and Google will try to acquiesce.

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As computing becomes more ubiquitous across multiple devices throughout our day, or on our bodies, voice will be an important input mechanism.

It has its drawbacks, such as in a noisy environment or some other place where speaking to a computer or watch isn't ideal. But as we work with different screens of various sizes where it can be a challenge to interact with devices, services and software, voice will continue to evolve as an invisible interface for the future.

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