Chromebooks often appeal to first-time computer buyers, or those who find Windows or MacOS too intimidating. A recent update to the Chrome OS code indicates that they might get even more friendly. The Chrome Story blog spotted two flags in a canary (alpha) build that indicate that system-wide voice dictation is coming, even when the device is offline.
The flags are listed as “Experimental accessibility dictation extension” and “Experimental accessibility dictation offline.” There’s also a bug tracking entry that mentions offline speech recognition. Exactly when the feature will be ready for end users, even in the preview canary builds, isn’t available at this time.
While Google Docs can do voice dictation, it requires an active data connection, and even that capability isn’t extended to other text entry points on an OS level. Dictation outside of Google Docs currently requires third-party extensions. This is in stark contrast to Google’s mobile OS Android, which has had deep voice integration for years, and can transcribe “okay, Google” commands even without a data connection. Connecting via mobile or Wi-Fi expands the accuracy and capability.
Obviously having a vocal text entry option would be a huge advantage for anyone who’s physically limited in terms of traditional keyboard text entry. But I think it might also be huge for anyone who’s just not comfortable or speedy enough with regular typing—especially now that Chromebooks are becoming commonplace in educational applications.