Google adds voice and image search to Chrome

At a media event held yesterday, search giant Google rolled out three new features which it says will 'knock down barriers to knowledge'.

Voice recognition in mobile searches has been around for a few years now and the technology which allowed users to access Google searches without having to resort to fiddly on-screen keyboards was a perfect fit on the likes of the iPhone and its army of imitators.

Now the world-conquering ad outfit is bringing speech recognition to the desktop with Voice Search, taking advantage of the fact that most PCs now have a microphone of some sort either built in or bolted on.

For the time being, the function only works in Google's own Chrome browser, only on Google.com and only in English, but we're willing to bet that plug-ins for other browsers, more regions and additional languages will come along shortly.

Google says it has used 230 billion words from real queries to make Voice Search work properly, but we'll bet dollars to doughnuts that it'll struggle with an English accent, as most voice recognition software does. We predict that Brit readers can look forward to some raised eyebrows as they yell at their computers in an American accent, but we haven't been able to try out the new function for ourselves because we can't even see the Voice Search button (which should be in the address bar) in the UK.

Also taking its cue from the way people use search on mobile devices, 'Search by Image' takes the best bits of Google Goggles, which allows searches based on images snapped on your phone, to the desktop.

It works by either pointing at the URL of a web-based image or uploading one of your own from your library, is rolling out globally in 40 languages as we write. Google is also building a plug-in for Chrome and Firefox which will call up Search by Image instantly by right clicking on a web image.

Users with shonky Internet connections will be pleased to know Google has taken another step towards speeding up the way search results are delivered. Google Instant, which arrived last year, offers search suggestions as you type, typically shaving a couple of seconds off of how long it takes you to find that hard-to-find tutorial on how to build your own ukulele.

Once you have your results, you still have that painful wait after you click on the top result as the page downloads, so Google has come up with Instant Pages which automatically downloads and renders the top result in the background.