According to code commits uncovered by XDA Developers, two in-development changes would change the behaviour of Chrome’s voice search functionality. For the unfamiliar, ‘commit’ refers to a code change or addition submitted to the Chromium Gerrit, an online collaborative tool for reviewing and merging code into Chromium, the open-source foundation of Google Chrome and other browsers like Microsoft Edge.
XDA notes that the bug trackers for the commits are private, making it hard to gather details about the change. However, the code and comments aren’t hidden. They reveal that the change, once merged with the codebase, will add a Chrome flag — a special setting often used for enabling in-development features for testing. The new flag (accessible at chrome://flags#omnibox-assistant-voice-search) will work on Android devices.
The flag’s description suggests it will use Assistant for “omnibox voice queries.” Currently, the omnibox — or search bar — on Chrome for Android allows users to tap a microphone button to open the Voice Search UI. Pictured below, it’s essentially a voice-to-text system so users can speak queries.
With the flag, tapping that button would make Chrome send an ‘intent’ to the Google App to launch Assistant instead.
It’s not currently clear how Assistant would work with Chrome, or what benefits the change would bring to users beyond a more unified voice experience. It could prove helpful considering Chrome recently received the ability for users to control it using the next-gen Assistant.
Unfortunately, the change won’t hit devices any time soon. Commenting on commit, a Googler noted that there’s lots to be done before the feature is ready. Currently, it doesn’t tell Google Web Server (GWS) which device is sending the query, it breaks default search engine functionality and it doesn’t work with search query extraction.
On top of all that, the feature change won’t arrive until Chrome 85, which is currently slated to roll out on the stable channel the week of September 15th, 2020.