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Chrome users that enjoy giving voice commands to their computers are now deprived of their favorite feature. In the latest version of Chrome (v.46), ‘OK Google’ hotword no longer activates Chrome voice search on devices that run Windows, OS X or Linux.
Chrome v. 46 brought some handy tools for developers and revamped the web browser’s security icons. Yet, users can no longer initiate a web search with a simple voice command. They will now have to open Google.com – manually– and press the microphone-shaped button to launch voice search.
Google wasn’t very specific on why it exactly removed the feature. It only said that the ‘OK Google’ feature was not popular enough among its users. We may assume that it was also a move to simplify Chrome and make it less of a resource hog.
Earlier this week, the tech giant announced that the next version of Chrome would no longer support notification center on desktop in an attempt to keep the web browser ‘simple.’ In the U.S., Chrome is ahead of other browsers mostly due to its user-friendly API and compatibility with Google products.
Nevertheless, users have complained that the web browser is grabbing too much RAM and it kills laptops’ battery life. As a result, the company sought new ways of simplifying the software, and removing ‘OK Google’ is one step into that direction.
The feature that allowed voice search to popup as soon as a user pronounced the ‘OK Google’ magic words ate up a lot of RAM. Tech experts explained that Chrome voice commands had to stay always-on to catch the exact moment when the hotword was uttered.
This summer, Google was sharply criticized by privacy advocates who accused the company of listening to users’ conversations. Several users reported that they saw their computers’ LED light that signals an active microphone or camera flickering from time to time.
After they ruled out malware infections or other invasive processes, they realized that Chrome was to blame. Google’s web browser turned the microphone on every time they opened Google.com or a new tab so it could hear the ‘OK Google’ voice command.
But criticism didn’t end here. Google was also criticized for not being transparent enough when enabling the new feature. Critics said the extension that powered the web browser’s voice search was downloaded by default whenever a user launched the browser, and there was no way of turning it off because it didn’t feature on the extension list.
Google is expected to bring back the feature at some point in the future but only as a separate extension that users can install or not.
Image Source: Flickr
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