Google’s new Android apps for desktop sync and voice actions

Google released two new Android applications Thursday that let users dictate actions to their phones and link their phones with information from their desktop Chrome browser.

The company held a press conference Thursday morning at its offices in San Francisco to discuss the new mobile announcements, and it kicked off the day by explaining that advances in wireless connectivity and processing power on smartphones are allowing powerful mobile applications to take advantage of cloud computing. Voice “actions” seemed like a natural progression, said Hugo Barra, director of mobile product management at Google.

There are a total of 12 voice actions in the app, not including voice Web search, because it has been around for a while. One of the more interesting ones is the “note to self” voice action app which generates an e-mail sent to yourself after you hit the microphone button and say “note to self” followed by the text of your note.
The other new feature links a Chrome browser with a new extension on a desktop with a new extension to Android phones. This feature allows someone looking up driving directions on the desktop, for example, to click a little mobile phone icon in his or her Chrome extensions list and have that information sent to the Android phone, where it will automatically launch that particular application. That’s really cool.

Dave Burke of Google built this tool in his 20 percent time, the company’s policy of permitting employees to work on projects outside of their usual obligations. It takes advantage of Cloud to Device Messaging feature that Google had announced for Android at Google I/O earlier this year.

Google would like to put the voice actions app on other phones like the iPhone, but it hasn’t submitted a version of this app to Apple as of yet, Barra said. Google’s iPhone application allows you to search the Web using your voice but unfortunately, it doesn’t come with all the voice action features introduced Thursday at the press conference.

Both of these applications should be expected in the Android Market on Thursday. They’ll require Android 2.2, and the voice actions app (U.S. English only for now) will come preinstalled on the Droid 2 phone.

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Stephen NellasStephen is part of the Software Jewel team, the company behind Clutterpad and BiP. He's also a regular author for BiP.View all posts by Stephen Nellas →