You know that part in all those science-fiction TV shows where the hero says "Computer, set my alarm for 8:30 a.m.?" Well, you can do that now if you have an Android phone. That and a lot more. Today, Google released two apps for the Android -- Voice Actions and Chrome2Phone.
These two apps make sense for Google as it continues to link its products and devices and consumer needs into a seamless experience -- unless, of course, you have a thick accent in English. For the time being, only English is available, though the demonstration at Google's San Francisco headquarters included French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.
Voice Actions include 12 separate commands plus voice-activated search. Hugo Barra, director of product management for Google Mobile, said that 25% of all searches on Android 2.0 devices are voice searches, which means that paid search results are not available in those in those cases.
Many of us will be happy to send text messages and get directions with voice commands. I'll let you know how it works out as Google loaned me an Android phone loaded with the new apps.
Chrome2Phone is the bridge between your desktop computer and your phone. Fernando Delgado, product manager of voice search, explains that in order to use it you have to do two things. "You have to get something on your phone and something on your computer," he said. "On your phone, go to Android market, get the Chrome2Phone app. For your computer, get the phone extension with the same name. For example, if you're watching a video on YouTube on your computer, you can click the Chrome2Send button and it will go directly to your phone and open the YouTube app." This procedure can be done with articles, maps or even phone numbers that you highlight on a web page.
As always with Google, the product is the marketing itself. In this case, Google incorporated a new YouTube channel launched today called GoogleMobile, where Android users can see senior software engineer Mike LeBeau (who's already starred in a marginally viral video about Voice Search) explaining how to use all the new features.
While there is no chance to advertise on Voice Search at this time, Mr. Barra said Google will do so when it can add value.
"With a visual list, sponsored results make sense, but with a call, they don't make sense," he said.