Yours truly is a huge fan of Google Now so it goes without saying Iâve long been yearning for that kind of hands-free voice searching on my Mac desktops and notebooks. Available via Googleâs free Search app for the iPhone and iPad  Â since November 5, the cool feature dutifully listens to the âOK Googleâ keyword which initiates a voice search. Itâs severely crippled, too, as âOK Googleâ only works if the Search app is running, as opposed to the always-on implementation on the Nexus 5 and Moto X.
Blame it on Appleâs strict policy that prohibits third-parties from listening to the microphone input in the background. Well, there are no such restrictions on Macs (yet) and Google has taken advantage of the fact and released a nice little extension for its browser allowing you toÂ talk to Google (when youâre using Chrome) hands-free, no typing requiredâ¦
âThis year, rather than stopping midway through to wash your hands and type in a search, you can just speak to your laptop: âOk Google, how many ounces are in one cup?ââ, writes the search monster in a post over at Google+ .
You can also say âOk Google, set a timer for 30 minutesâ so you donât forget to baste that turkey.
What enables âOK Googleâ hotword detection is the freeÂ Google Voice Search Hotword extension, currently in beta andÂ only available to English-speaking users in the U.S.
There are two options available: you can enable or disable the extension for Google.com search andÂ set it to stop listening for the hotword after five minutes, which helpsÂ reduce battery consumption on MacBooks.
When enabled, you should see theÂ microphone icon in the search box when on Google.com.Â If itâs all gray, you can freely speak your search â" justÂ say âOK Google,â followed by your question.Â Note that Voice Search was previously available in Chrome, but you had to click the microphone icon manually in order to initiate it.
The extension requires access to your data on *.google.com websites, your tabs, browsing activity and of course your Macâs microphone.Â However, privacy advocates neednât worry: your question gets sent to Google only when the extension hears the hotword.
Release notes state that enabling âOK Googleâ lets Chrome listen for the hotword toÂ âsend the sound of the next thing you say, plus a few seconds beforeâ, to Google.
This doesnât tell meÂ whether my voice is being sent unencrypted over the web, where the NSA can intercept it. For what itâs worth, the extension works without a hiccup onÂ encrypted.google.com  .
Check out the promo clip.
To get you up to speed, you can try Voice Search with the following examples:
â¢ âCompare olive oil and butterâ
â¢ âWhat is 5 tablespoons in ouncesâ
â¢ âRemind me to buy more olive oil on Sunday afternoonâ
Hereâs a nice animated GIF.
Some caveats apply.
For starters, âOK Googleâ is unavailable when Chrome is running in the background.
Not that I have any problem with that, but what really bothers me is that hotword detection only works on Google.com. You canât say âOK Googleâ when browsing other Google properties on the web such as Gmail or Docs, which is a shame.
Still, itâs a solid start and the feature will only get better over time.
Even in its current beta incarnation, the extension saves ton of time by letting you set reminders, check quotes, perform simple calculations and more, all hands-free.Â I expect âOK Googleâ to eventually trickle down to the stable Chrome release just asÂ Search by Image was originally an extension, but now is part of Chrome.
What Iâd really, really prefer is a native app sitting in the Mac menu and always listening to the hotword, regardless of whether or not Chrome is running. Also, how about an OK Google Safari extension?
If youâre fan of Chrome, Google has more goodies in the works.
What do you think about this extension?
Can you fathom yourself conversing with Google on your Mac?