Don't look now, but Google Voice Search just got a lot more powerful.
Google announced an upgrade to its Voice Search tool today that puts a host of new commands at your disposal -- commands that let you verbally ask about your flight status, package delivery status, upcoming hotel or restaurant reservations, or upcoming appointments. You can even instruct Voice Search to pull up a collection of specific photos from your Google+ photo collection, like images from a trip to Hawaii or photos you've taken of cats.
Pretty impressive, right? And here's the coolest part: You don't have to do any digging; Google will automatically find the info for you so long as it's somewhere in your Gmail, Google Calendar, or Google+ storage. It's yet another step in that whole "unified Google" connective tissue thing we've been hearing about for so long.
For Android phones and tablets, these new commands add to a list of growing possibilities within the device-level Google Voice Search utility. But beyond that, it's now possible -- and easier than ever -- to tap into advanced voice control from your desktop computer as well.
Google's actually had a microphone icon in the search box of its google.com home page for a while now. That's all well and good, but navigating to google.com and clicking a command isn't exactly a convenient way to get stuff done.
Here's a better way: Install NowVoiceSearch, a free extension for the Chrome desktop browser. It'll place a little red microphone icon right in your browser's toolbar; clicking that icon will launch you straight into Google Voice Search so you can simply start talking and wait for Google to give you the info you need.
If you really want to go all out, set a custom keyboard shortcut so you can access Voice Search with a single keystroke from anywhere in your browser. Just head into the Chrome Extensions page (click the Chrome Menu button and go to Tools and then Extensions, or type chrome://extensions into your browser's address bar) and click the "Keyboard shortcuts" option at the very bottom of the page.
Look for NowVoiceSearch in the list that appears and click the box alongside it, then type in whatever key combination you want to use as the shortcut -- Alt-G, Alt-1, or whatever tickles your fancy. Click the "OK" box at the bottom of the list, and -- voilà!-- you now have a one-step hotkey to pull up Voice Search on demand.
In addition to today's newly announced Voice Search commands, by the way, most of the standard stuff you've come to know and love on Android -- asking about the weather, sports scores, time zone or measurement conversions, or general search info (queries like "how tall is Scarlett Johansson," "how old is John Stamos," or "show me pictures of fancy monkeys") -- will work from your desktop, too.
Just be careful how loudly you speak. After all, a healthy interest in the Black Widow, Uncle Jesse, and stylish primates is perfectly acceptable around these parts, but your boss might not be so understanding.