One of the great new features of Android KitKat is OK Google, the voice command that prompts your phone to accept verbal questions. The problem is, it’s limited to specific devices and is restricted to the USA and only if you’re speaking English. Let’s change that.
Benefits Of “OK Google”
Let’s be reasonable: this is a “bells and whistles” enhancement. Very few users will consider the inability to use the OK Google hot phrase a deal breaker when buying a non-Nexus 5 device. In fact, it is entirely likely that the tool will be baked into all official ROMs within the next couple of years, just like many other new features that have been added in the past.
However, OK Google is remarkably useful, enabling hands-free access to search, messaging and task creation, all of which are particularly welcome when driving. You might even use OK Google when working on a document on your PC, your phone placed next to your keyboard awaiting commands.
A couple of key problems in OK Google at present limit its use. First, the inability (on some devices) to use the hot phrase from any screen (as with, for example the Moto X); second, the lack of support for some languages.
Fixing these omissions is easy using the free app Open Mic+ For Google Now [No Longer Available], which you should install before reading the next section.
Configuring Open Mic+
After installation, open your app drawer and launch Open Mic+. You’ll be presented with a button to start and stop the tool, but first scroll past this and look at the Activation section. Here you will see options for Hot Phrase Detection, Wave Detection for initializing Google Now with a gesture and Shake Detection, which requires you to wobble your phone to use OK Google.
If you’re having difficulty with the OK Google hot phrase not working in your territory or your language, you’ll need to have this option enabled. You should also consider changing the Hot Phrase if you have difficulty saying “OK Google” in a manner that is correctly detected.
Open Mic+ uses its own speech recognition software, and in most cases this should be set to PocketSphinx, as shown above, You should only need to use Google if you have set a custom hot phrase in an unsupported language.
With options to Start on Boot, set Blacklisted Apps (typically games and apps that use the microphone) and Read Text Messages (among several others) Open Mic+ will start listening for your commands once you press the play button at the top of the display.
Using Open Mic+ For Google Now
If you’ve seen the voice controlled Google Now in action, you should have a good idea how Open Mic+ works. Essentially, you can now forget it is there – all you’ll see of it is a brief screen each time you say “OK Google” (or your chosen hot phrase) as it detects your voice and opens the speech recognition screen in Google Now.
From here, you can begin using the standard OK Google phrases and terms to find the information you need.
Open Mic+ improves on Google Now beyond the problems of unsupported languages, however. Using this app enables you to utter your hot phrase from any screen on your Android device. Better still, once you’re done with Google Now, the app is still running in the background, so you can once again say “OK Google” to run another search, request another task or ask another question.
This turns Google’s already superb service into something that is more akin to Siri, a service that you can have a hands-free conversation with!
Android Voice Search Is Now OK (Google)
Open Mic+ for OK Google essentially hacks Google Now to enable OK Google in your territory and language and enables the setting of a custom Hot Phrase.
As functional as it is, however, it is really only a short term fix to the problem. Eventually, Google will roll out an improved OK Google, so it will be interesting to see how the developer deals with this!
There have been a few attempts to “fix” OK Google, including a solution that hacks a .BIN file in rooted devices. However we reckon that using Open Mic+ is the best solution, one that vastly improves the existing tool.
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