I saw an article just a day ago that caught my eye. The promise was simple: Chrome can now be controlled in a few ways with just your voice via the Google Assistant. I brushed it off at first, thinking this would be yet another ‘feature’ of the Google Assistant that I would honestly never use. Sure, using voice for a query here and there is fun, but talking to your phone most times feels quite obnoxious and it isn’t something that ever feels faster than reaching out and using one of my digits.
I think I was wrong, though. Once I went back and read a bit more about these new actions for Chrome, I gave them a try and I am – maybe for the first time – insanely impressed by the things I can do with the Assistant in an app. Again, I’m not saying that the Google Assistant isn’t great at facts and answering questions: I just don’t use it to control stuff on my devices very often. These new actions for Chrome might just change that.
The list of commands that have been found will be listed below, but these are things that are not gimmicks or bar tricks. They are useful actions that you do on Chrome dozens of times a day. And with the speed of the New Google Assistant, pulling off these tasks is not only easy, it is really fast as well. As a matter of fact, with the Pixel phones, you can simply grab the phone, give it a squeeze, and do quite a bit without ever really engaging your fingertips. Here’s the list of commands:
- Open a new tab
- Close this tab
- Close all tabs
- Go back
- Go forward
- Bookmark this page
- Open history
- Open downloads
- Search for [topic] in Chrome
- Go to [site name/address]
- Open [site name/address]
- Send this to [name of contact]
If you have a Pixel phone (or any phone with the New Assistant once they start getting it), this set of commands will work as long as you have the latest version of Chrome installed. There’s a chance you’ve not had the flag for this new feature flipped on the server side, but you can manually force it on by going to chrome://flags/#direct-actions and setting it to ‘enabled.’ After doing so, close and re-open Chrome and you can start using the Assistant to do all the things in the list above.
A major caveat that applies is for users with a G Suite account on their device. As you may know, G Suite accounts aren’t yet compatible with the New Google Assistant, and unfortunately, most of these new actions are tied directly to it. On my primary phone, I have our Chrome Unboxed G Suite account added and with the older Assistant, only opening web pages and sharing actions seem to work. I’m hopeful that Google gets this sorted out soon. I had to use a backup phone to try these new Chrome voice actions out and now I’m trying to figure out how I could possibly work without G Suite on my primary phone just to use them. These voice controls are just that good!
As we see more and more of this type of app interaction with personal assistants, I believe we’ll get to the point where we can start to prefer controlling our devices via voice more often. Up to this point, it just hasn’t been easy or fast enough to consider as a legitimate, daily input method. With actions like these new ones in Chrome, however, I can actually see myself using my voice way more often to do menial, trivial tasks on my devices instead of just for polling Google for answers and facts.