Hands-Free Voice Typing May Soon Be Available on Gboard

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Google has been making advances toward what it can do with voice technology. While last year it began offering speech transcription on Pixel devices, there were hints of how much further Google is looking to take the technology at I/O 2019. Now there are hints that the new Google Assistant may soon be used to make hands-free voice typing available on Gboard.

Hidden Lines of Code

We’re not just talking about text to speech here, as really that wouldn’t be anything special in the tech world right now. After some of the capability of hands-free voice typing was shown at I/O 2019, 9to5google has “decompiled” the latest version of an app that Google added to the Play Store. They’ve decompiled the APKs and found lines of code hinting at future features. The website interpreted the lines of code and believe they’ve figured out how this feature will work.

When this feature comes to fruition on Gboard, the virtual keyboard would prompt the user to “Tap the mic to chat hands free.” A new interface would launch and be overlaid on the keyboard.

This would lead to users being invited to “Speak now to type hands free.” There would be three radio buttons at the top: “Close,” “Delete,” and “Send it.” Those quotations would appear on the radio buttons, making it appear the user can either hit the radio button or say the word.

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The Assistant bar would appear at the bottom of the screen while the user is talking and offer suggestions such as “Continue speaking” as the text appears at the top. This is where you can see that it’s more than just text to speech, as the entire operation is hands free, to be used on any app where the user would need to input text.

It appears the new Google Assistant will be required to access this feature, and this is how it was demoed at I/O 2019. It was used then to compose an email in Gmail, including text entry, the subject line, and the same “send it” commands that were described in Gboard.

Where Is this Headed?

The question is, where is hands-free voice typing headed and what more could be done with this technology. Are we headed toward doing away with typing and keyboards altogether so that it can all be done with voice?

Personally, I hope that’s not the path that this will take. As a writer, the typing is part of my process. When I have tried to use text-to-speech capability, I find it difficult to “write.” I need the use of my hands.

However, the hands-free voice typing would certainly be good for others in Accessibility situations.

If Gboard doesn’t quite do it for you, check out five of the best Gboard alternatives for Android users.

Image Credit: YouTube on 9to5Google

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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