Google Now has recently updated to include some really cool features. Most notably, a hands-free search and response feature. Search Google or tell the app for a reminder, all without touching the device.
The means by which the hands-free feature works is a special phrase, much like Google Glass, that is spoken to give the device reason to begin listening to you. From that point on, it’s similar to Google’s voice search feature we’ve seen before.
Hands-free Operation With “Ok Google”
With the app open, you can begin searches or set reminders by saying “Ok Google” into the device. We’ll look at some of the new features Google Now includes, some of which you can use with the hands-free feature.
On a side note, start the Google Search app with Siri by saying “Open Google Search.” The app will open by your voice, just from holding down the home button, which makes the following hands-free experience even smoother.
Google Now supports creating reminders from within the app that can be displayed even when it’s not launched. The reminders won’t display like default iOS reminders, but the notification is still present and useful for when you need it.
Create reminders manually from the menu located below the cards, or simply speak to the device. Try it with these examples.
Say “Ok Google,” and then wait for the beep. Then say something like the following:
- “Remind me to take out the trash in the morning”
- “Remind me to pick up Jessica at the park”
- “Remind me to take my pills tonight”
After a short pause, like when using Siri, Google Now will display a page with the reminder listed like you see above. You can then manually change the date or add a location before setting the reminder. Note that currently, reminders need to be manually saved by pressing “Set reminder.”
You can also ask to be reminded when your favorite:
- Musicians release a new album
- TV show has a new episode
- Actors star in a new movie
- Celebrities and politicians make headlines
To do this, just search for the item and press the “remind me” button.
Viewing New Notifications
New notifications will appear on the bottom of the Google Now application. However, it’s not required to have the app open to see the notification. Press any notification, like ours in the above example, to quickly remind yourself of it once more in an hours time. You can modify the notifications from the menu at the bottom of the app’s main page.
According to Google, you can even get notifications for the following:
- When to leave for your next appointment or event
- If your flight is running late
- How to catch the last train home
In addition to reminders and notifications, the search feature of Google Now has been redesigned. Located when you first launch the app, you’ll notice a redesigned homepage with the ability to throw images off the screen to get rid of them or zoom up to see them closer.
With the app open, just say “Ok Google. Define imposing” to hear a definition without even touching the device. When the response is over, you can begin another search immediately without making any physical changes.
You’ll find new cards on the homepage, too, like the following:
- Tickets for movies, concerts, and events
- Boarding passes for your flights
- Reservation confirmations for car rentals
- Warnings when your last train home leaves
- Lists of upcoming local events
The above screenshot is an example of some local events my Google Now app garnered.
I used the hands-free feature for defining words for nearly 10 minutes upon updating the app. It’s like a futuristic smart house. Lie your phone off to the side and simply speak, letting Google complete the thoughts for you.
If other features, like reminders, are ever updated to the point you can operate them without touching anything, I think that would help bring Google Now to a position where it can give SIRI a run for its money.