Thursday, October 31, 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat lets you say 'OK Google' to activate touchless search


"Okay Google." Those Touchless Controls aren't just for the Moto X anymore -- they're now part and parcel of the Nexus 5. With today's unveiling of Google's (terribly leaked) Nexus 5, we're getting a first look at Android 4.4 KitKat on the handset, and that OS update comes with some significant tweaks to Search and Now. For starters, Nexus 5 users will have the ability to set hot keywords as a means of activating or "waking up" Now voice search. So, presumably, this means you'll be able to link any word you'd like to start barking voice commands at Now. Just don't be surprised if Now talks back to you: KitKat also apparently allows for a dialogue of sorts between users and the handset to refine search queries. This could be especially useful when directing Now to access contacts by first name. For example, saying "Text Jennifer" could result in it asking you to specify, "Which Jennifer?" It's smart control made smarter.

But that's just the tip of the improvements Google's made to its Now and Search product. Overall, speech recognition is said to have been made 25% more accurate and manual access to Now can be triggered by a swipe to the left (Nexus 5-only, for now) -- no longer a swipe from the bottom of the screen up. Now has also been outfitted with a wider array of "contextual cards." It's yet another step in making Google's digital assistant even more prescient, as it will now display information based on a user's current activity, like Fandango for ticket listings if you're at a theatre, or even updates on a favorite TV show you've searched for previously. And going even further, Google Now will also provide "deep links" to applications you've installed on the handset. In the use case Google provided, this means that a recipe search won't just display link results, but will also ping up the AllRecipes app or even OpenTable, if you're on the hunt for a restaurant. Though all of these Search tweaks are bundled into the Nexus 5 for now, they should soon rollout to other Nexus devices as Android 4.4 KitKat is made more widely available.

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