Google's software engineers are looking at bringing a little bit of Android to the Chromebook. François Beaufort, who works on Google's Chromium open-source browser, announced on Friday that new developer builds of the Chromebook's software let you ask it whatever you want using the "OK Google" voice commands.
According to Beaufort, the Chromebook's support for "OK Google" queries is only included in Dev Channel builds and it's "experimental" for now.
It's also pretty well hidden. Beaufort describes:
"Try out the experimental new version of the 'Ok Google' experience by toggling the chrome://flags/#enable-hotword-hardware flag. Restart your device, go to Chrome OS Settings and check 'Enable "Ok Google' to start a voice search" to train your device to respond to the sound of your voice by saying three times 'Ok Google'."
Once you get it up and running, though, Beaufort says you can speak questions whenever your Chromebook's screen is awake and unlocked.
Keep in mind that this is still just an experimental feature in a developer version of the Chromebook's software, and there's no telling when it'll make it into the consumer version of the Chromebook OS, if at all, so don't get too excited just yet.
The story behind the story: Google isn't the only company looking to bring its virtual assistant system from its mobile OS to its PC OS: Leaks suggest that Windows 10 will include a desktop version of Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant, although it isn't nearly ready to use yet. (There's no word from Apple about whether Siri will ever jump from iOS to the Mac.)
Whether many people will actually use virtual assistants on their PCs remains to be seen, of course, but bringing them to PCs should up the competitive ante and, hopefully, result in better results from these tools.