It has been a year in development, but just a couple days ago the world’s biggest search engine announced on its blog that Okay Google is ready to go live. To begin with it will only be available in the US, the UK and Canada, and it is still in beta testing. Users should not expect perfection, but this is a great chance for business owners to explore its potential, assess its limitations and get ahead of the game.
The Okay Google package is embedded in Google Chrome, so it is necessary to start out with this as the browser. It is then simply a matter of going to the Google homepage and clicking on the microphone symbol to activate the voice recognition system. As long as the computer in use has a microphone, there is no other set-up needed. The words "Okay Google" can be spoken to start a search.
It is probable that, however good it gets, the variation in user voices and accents means that some words will always be misinterpreted by Okay Google. Working out which, and when, could provide useful alternative sets of keywords for voice-based search engine optimization.
It is easy to tell when Google is listening and when it is not, by looking at the same microphone icon. If it is white, the system is "asleep"; if it is black, Google is paying attention and ready to receive instruction. In addition to searching, Okay Google can interpret and act on other commands such as setting reminder messages.
Google has announced that Windows, Mac and Linux versions, as well as a Chrome OS version, will all be available within the next few days. An Android version has been available since November but it is expected that this will turn out to be used quite differently from the way it is used on traditional devices, as it has the advantage of sparing people the discomfort of having to type on a tiny keyboard; however, it has the disadvantage of being less private – it is one thing to have people overhear a mundane phone conversation in the street but quite another for them to have the ability to spy on search patterns.
It is also possible that Okay Google will change people’s search habits more generally, because people who get into the habit of searching differently at home may feel constrained when searching in the office. Identifying any changes such as this and adjusting marketing strategies accordingly would be another positive way to increase market share.