How to make Android Voice Search even smarter

Android Voice Search

Android's Voice Search system lets you do tons of useful stuff by speaking to your phone -- but when it comes to actual hardware control, the system's always been pretty limited.

At least, until now.

A 16-year-old (!) developer named Ryan Senanayake has come up with a clever little hack that adds a potent range of powers to Google's voice command system. It's called Commandr, it's completely free, and it's something you're almost certainly going to want on your Android device.

Once installed, Commandr runs completely behind the scenes; you'll never actively think about it or consider the fact that you're even using it. All it does is tack on a series of additional commands to Google's native voice command interface -- you know, the "Okay, Google" prompt or the microphone icon within Google Now.

So what exactly will Commandr allow you to do? Once the app's installed, you can issue the following extra commands to your phone via the regular Voice Search system:

Android Voice Search - Commandr

• "Flashlight on" (or off)

• "Wi-Fi on" (or off)

• "Bluetooth on" (or off)

• "Read unread SMS"

• "Pause music"

• "Resume music"

• "Next song"

• "Previous song"

• "Playlist [name of Google Play Music playlist]"

If you're feeling especially ambitious, you can also configure Commandr to work with Tasker -- a separate app that allows some robust (though also somewhat complex) types of custom task programming.

If you're feeling really ambitious, another app called AutoVoice integrates with Tasker to provide even more advanced possibilities -- but it really isn't for the faint of heart.

What's nice about Commandr is that it just works out of the box with very little effort. The app functions by listening to your Voice Search commands via Android's accessibility service -- something you authorize once during the initial setup process. (If you aren't comfortable with that permission, Commandr can also function without it, though it'll then require an additional phrase to be spoken before all commands.)

I've been using the app for the past couple weeks, and it works consistently well. It's also received regular updates that have improved and expanded its functionality in some pretty impressive ways.

Best of all, the developer promises this is only the beginning. He's actively working on adding a host of new specialty voice commands, including ones that'll allow you to turn on or off a Wi-Fi hotspot and to have the system read aloud unread Gmail messages from your inbox.

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This, folks, is the kind of stuff that makes Android exciting. This is what makes it fun to be an Android user.

This is what we call Android power.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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