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Google brings voice-enabled search to the desktop

Just by saying "Okay Google," people will soon be able to search using voice commands on their Chrome-powered desktop and laptop computers, Google said Wednesday.

"Okay Google, show me things to do in Santa Cruz," a person can say. They get back a list of attractions in the town as well nearby places Google thinks should be included.

The feature, which Google calls Conversational Search, taps into the company's knowledge graph, which tries to make connections between different bits of information and understand the context of people's searches.

Conversational Search also builds on Google's voice recognition and natural language processing technology, already used on mobile devices running Chrome and Android.

Voice-enabled search for the desktop was unveiled Wednesday at Google's I/O developer conference in San Francisco, which Google says more than 6,000 people are attending.

The announcement is another step toward Google being able to let people use its search technology in as natural a way as possible, "pretty much like you would ask a friend," said Amit Singhal, a senior vice president at Google and head of its core ranking team.

Without needing to activate the computer's microphone, "you can sit back, relax, say, 'Okay Google,' ask your question, and have Google speak back the answer," he said.

Google's Knowledge Graph contains more than 750 million entries, and "as it grows it becomes more and more powerful each day," according to Singhal.

"Search is becoming a uniquely 'you' experience that intelligently answers your questions across all screens," he said.

Conversational Search for desktops and laptops is available to a limited number of users as part of Google's Search Field Trial and will roll out more broadly soon, the company said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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