How-To Enable Always Listening "Ok Google" Functionality On Chromebook

Back at Google I/O during this past summer, Google updated the Play Services and Search app to allow you to, with KitKat, Android 4.4, and above (and not a Moto X, G, or E sadly) call out "Ok Google" from any part of Android's OS, even when the screen was off and not secured with a passlock of some kind. We have seen the Moto X and its iterations succeed with this features, we saw the aforementioned feature come to more devices as KitKat has gained traction in ownership numbers in the months since I/O.  But, this wasn't enough for Google and its offering of convenience. Google introduced a search by voice functionality on its website in Chrome, and now has outdone even that. Last week it was reported that you can now have this nifty utility of omnipresent vocal querying on Chrome OS devices.

First, we have some requirements though. You must be on a Chrome device (book, box, whichever you have or prefer) and it has to be on the dev channel for updates to the OS. That means, if you're not already on the dev channel, you have to go into settings, choose 'About Chrome OS', and select 'check for and apply updates', then select 'switch channels', choose dev channel, and let it install the update that brings the OS on the device up to 41.0.2252.2 dev. Once that condition is met, make sure you have the new app launcher which is centered in the screen instead of the bottom-left corner as before. Notice that the microphone is not filled in completely, in the search bar. That means you're ready to start.

Now, what you need to do is go into the browser and type in "chrome://flags/#enable-hotword-hardware" into the address bar, and hit enter to get to the flag setting page. Since you are in the developer channel, you have access to the flag shortened to 'enable hotword hardware', which enable the always listening functionality of the Chrome device. You'll see the box greyed out with the option to enable it; do so, and restart the system via the prompt at the bottom of the window.

When it boots back up (which will be a matter of seconds, of course), there will be a prompt box in the bottom right offering you to enable the Ok Google-ing.  Choose enable, and you'll be taken to a new window that has the same agreement that Search does when you first enable the always listening functionality (Google will store some of your vocal queries, and you can manage your saved searches at this address so you can be sure of what they do and don't have you saying on record). So, once you agree to the saving of some searches, you are taken to the welcome screen that lets you know that you have to do the three-times hotword training so it recognizes your voice instead of just a voice.

Now comes the training, once you click to continue. Say "Ok Google" three times (and I'd recommend saying them each different, like one stating it, one with an inflection like for a question, and the last one in a lower pitch, if you are fed up with Google not hearing you right, or in case your voice is lower in the morning than the afternoon), and click to continue. You should now have a little screen pop up to say that you can now make queries vocally from any position, as long as the device is awake and unlocked/logged in. This feature is, obviously, meant for early adopters that won't mind it breaking sometimes. If any of you got a Chrome OS device for Christmas then which one did you receive and will you be sticking on the developer channel, or waiting for the feature to hit beta or stable before using it at all? What feature would you like to see hit the dev channel, and the more stable one subsequently of course, next? Let us know down below.

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About the Author

Phil Bourget

Staff Writer
Using Android since 2012 and the Galaxy S III, I'm now running a Nexus 5 paired to a Moto 360 to keep updated on the Internet of stuff. Usually found on Google+ or in class.