Voice search in Google's Chrome browser now features hands free search by saying the phrase, "Okay, Google."

Once a year, Google throws its I/O developers conference, and day one in 2013 featured plenty of updates about the company's most popular search, mobile and cloud products including a hands free voice search feature for laptops and desktops.

Hands Free Search, Responsive Design in Chrome

Just like with Android mobile devices, voice search can be used on laptops and desktops, but now there is a hands free setting that allows for starting a search simply by saying 'Okay, Google,' and then the desired keyword. Google went further by making voice search in the Chrome Web browser more conversation like, including the ability for people to ask follow up questions related to the original search.

When this feature rolls out, the need to tap the microphone icon on a desktop to conduct a voice search will be history, and those searches will simply get more precise as Google hones its language processing ability. On that same front, Google's Knowledge Graph has been updated to included more relevant search answers to questions like what is the population of Canada?

The Knowledge Graph will answer the question, and also show related information that is often asked in follow up questions. One example would be to show population changes over time and comparisons with other countries or U.S. states.

One other search app, Google Now has been updated as well, and it features the ability to create reminders via voice. Google's so called intelligent personal assistant can set up reminders for things to do later on, but it's been updated to include the ability to select a time or place to trigger that reminder.

This is a pretty nifty update because it allows for a note made to pick up some ice to pop up right when someone walks into the corner store, for example.

On the mobile front, Google has fully embraced the responsive design ethos within its Chrome browser. Now that Chrome is available on iPhones and iPads, website designers who build for Chrome should be able to build one design that will look proper on any kind of device. Google is pushing for stripped down mobile versions of websites to become a thing of the past.


Google Now, the digital assistant, has added the ability to create reminders via voice activation.

Non Relational Database

Google has also announced a bit of an Amazon Web Services competitor called Google Cloud Datastore. It's a managed, NoSQL database based on the High Replication Datastore already used by App Engine apps. It provides a schemaless format that features scaling and high availability, two things it will definitely need to win over AWS customers.

Additionally, in 2012 Google announced its Compute Engine service for building out virtual machines to harness massive amounts of computing power. Now the company has made Compute Engine generally available for anyone to use. It features sub hour billing so only the amount of computing needed is payed for, and shared core instances for smaller operations that don't need truly intense workloads.

The other big addition to cloud services was the announcement of support for the PHP programming language in App Engine. Now open source Web apps like WordPress can run on Google's infrastructure. Adding PHP to App Engine had been the top request of developers, Urs Holze, SVP of Google's Cloud Platform wrote in a recent blog post.

Day one of Google I/O had so much to offer, we split it into two posts, so go check out the rest of the Maps, Gmail and Google+ news we posted earlier. I/O runs through Friday, May 17 and no doubt Google is holding back a few more tasty updates for us to nibble on.