OK Google voice commands and dictation

Voice commands and dictation have been greatly popularised by Apple’s Siri and are something which many who are averse to trying to type on a small touch screen have been keenly wanting. I’ve previously resisted using voice search, but Android has made some strides in this area recently so I’ve combined having a look at what you can and can’t do with the real world example of bacon in order to provide my impressions.

”OK Google”.

One of the biggest new features is the ability to start Google listening by saying ”OK Google” from anywhere and then being able to say a command or query. This mostly relies on new power saving hardware so currently only works on the new Moto X.

The best option I’ve found is placing a shortcut to ”Voice Search” either on the desktop, or in the notification area (using an app like Notification Toggle). Then you have relatively easy access to Google search which starts listening as soon as you go into it, and once you have given a command, you can continue to give additional commands by saying ”OK Google”.

One of the coolest variations I’ve found on this is that there are several other commands you can try. Several sites mention ”OK Jarvis”, which I couldn’t get to work, but ”OK Dude” did. Sadly ”Ok Bacon” doesn’t yet work, but I’m sure Google are working on this.


Firstly, one of the biggest problems I found was that on my Galaxy Note II, I couldn’t get OK Google to work well with Talkback. ”OK Google” keyword detection was disabled while Talkback was running, and when I did do a search by tapping on the button, I couldn’t get Talkback to interact with the web view of results. On my Nexus 10 with the newer version of Android, I could interact with the web view at least, though in fairness still not quite as smoothly as Siri with VoiceOver on the iPad.

What can you do with it?

So now we’ve got into Google search one way or another, what can we ask it? There are an ever increasing number of commands and variations you can use: Here is one list of OK Google commands.   See that link for detailed instructions but broadly they boil down to:

Searching for information about bacon on Google.
Setting events and reminders to buy bacon
Finding out general information (time, weather, sports scores, flight information, stock price of bacon etc)
Doing maths and conversions (length / currency etc)
Using the phone features (make a phone call or send SMS to order bacon, open an app etc)
Interacting with some apps (send an email, create a note, open a bacon related web page etc)
Maps and navigation instructions

Natural language and context

One of the big strengths is the variation in ways you can phrase your query, for instance:
”What is the weather”, ”Do I need an umbrella / a coat?”, ”Is it sunny / raining?” will all give you the weather (with comments on whether it’s raining or you need an umbrella depending on what you asked).

With many queries though, how you phrase things can make a big difference. For instance, you can say ”Search for bacon” or ”bacon recipes” and it will give you search results. You can also say ”Define bacon” or ”what is bacon?” and it will read out a definition, ask it to ”cook bacon” and it will read out step by step instructions. Interestingly saying ”Cook bacon” gives you instructions from The Art of Manliness, whereas ”Cooking bacon” gives instructions from The Kitchn

One very intuitive feature is that it will use previous questions to work out the context of the current question:

”When did world war 1 start”, reads an answer explaining the precursors to the Great War.
Next asking ”When did it end” gets reworded to ”When did world war 1 end” and gives the appropriate answer.
Asking ”How many were killed” will then also give the answer relating to WW1.

Interacting with your phone

When I asked it to ring ”home”, Google asked me ”Which home?” as I had a contact called ”Home” and one called ”Home visiting doctor”. Very cleverly she listened immediately and when I said ”The first one” she then went to dial my house. ”Take Photo” or ”Record video” opens your default camera app smoothly as well.

When I tried emailing my wife, it dictated my (short) message well, though when I told it to send, instead of sending the message immediately, it opened Aqua Mail with the message ready for me to edit further or send myself.

When I tried to open an app by saying ”Open aqua mail”, it actually crashed Google search – evidently the 700 bacon related apps I have on my phone are too many for it…. however it worked ok on my Nexus 10 with far fewer apps.

I also had trouble creating notes. I have several notepad applications on my phone, however it couldn’t find anything to save a note with. When I tried on my tablet, it happily saved my notes I dictated into Google Keep (which I didn’t have on the phone). One way around this, is to go into your preferred notepad app, and when you create a note and the keyboard appears, you can tap the microphone icon (or set ”Google Voice typing” as your default keyboard) and then you can dictate the note.


One of the main things I found OK Google can’t do, which many people would really find useful, is change settings, eg ”Turn on Talkback”, ”increase brightness”, ”magnify” would all be extremely useful.

The voice recognition was able to work out what I was saying most of the time, though not always and sometimes when it got it wrong, that would then flow on to following commands. There is an option to have it analyse everything you ask to facilitate better accuracy so it should learn over time. I also found it cut me off partway through long commands – eg dictating a longer email. I also sometimes said ”OK Google” and then had to try and think how to word what I was about to ask, though because it will accept quite a lot of ’natural’ language, sometimes just saying what you want without thinking of how to word it works really well. If you do pause first it often stops listening just as you start speaking.

Easter Eggs

As with Siri, there are a number of funny questions and commands you can give OK Google, including several good bacon ones:

• “When does the narwhal bacon?”
• “What is the Bacon number of [random actor]?”
• “Make me a sandwich!”
• “Sudo make me a sandwich!”
(I am assuming these last two are BLTs – what else would they be?)


Overall I found it actually worked better than I expected, and being able to say ”OK Google” feels much smoother for issuing subsequent commands than having to tap on the microphone icon like with Siri. I did find it jarring that it will sometimes read aloud what it has found, and other times it doesn’t and I need to concentrate and look at what is on the screen.

While I am still reluctant to randomly talk to my phone in public, I have the icon prominently on my home screen and will keep coming back to see how it advances and I can absolutely see it making accessing the device easier for some people, particularly once Talkback integration is improved.

Is it better than Siri? At this point in time, some things it does better, some not quite as well, particularly if you using Talkback, I would recommend using a device running Android 4.4 for best results. Overall though I think the rivalry between the two companies is good for all of us, as if one introduces a brilliant new feature, the other will find a way to do something similar. As much as fans of one platform or the other will cry ”copycat!”, if the end result is everyone being able to do something more efficiently, then it is the users who win from this.

Android Games for Talkback users

NOTE: This is no longer the current version of this list! Since making this post, and then updating it, I have decided to create a permanent page with an up to date list of accessible games here: https://22point.wordpress.com/games-for-talkback-users/

Following on from my recent post about Android low vision games (https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/low-vision-games/), I thought I would follow up with one for Talkback users as well – of course low vision or even fully sighted users can enjoy these games just as much!  I’ve roughly categorised them below, but aside from that they are in no particular order (ok I may have included RapiTap! first, but if you enjoy this blog, please do support me by at least trying it and hopefully buying the full version!).


Board games:


RapiTap! (Accessible game)


$2.99 with free version available

Tap targets fast and avoid decoys.  A reaction based game which offers options from full screen, to a 10×12 grid


Talking Stones:


$3.91 with Free version available

Match 3 type game with heaps of features and bonuses.


Accessible Memory:


$2.16 with Free trial available

Memory game with lots of options, different themes (remember colours / numbers etc).


Simple Simon



Simon memory game. The four buttons (8 in advanced mode) simply say button, so require a bit of practice to remember which button is which sound, otherwise it works with Talkback.

Blind-Droid Minesweeper



Accessible Minesweeper game (Each square is either empty or has a number in it signifying the number of mines in adjacent squares – try to clear all the squares without blowing up the mines.


Accessible Minesweeper



Another accessible minesweeper game by e-UCM who also made Eyes Free Golf.




Ad supported (no full version available).

Accessible chess game. Does require knowledge of where to place pieces (alternatives are visually highlighted but no talkback hint).


Tic Tac Toe (Another One!)


There are many Tic Tac Toe games, this one by Escogitare at least is accessible with Talkback, and yes it’s called Tic Tac Toe (Another One!).

Dice world



Dice World! Bringing the world together with dice games! Not just one dice game, but Six different games! Farkle, Yatzy, Balut, Threes, 1-4-24.. and PIG! Challenge your friends or random opponents to any or all games!
•100% Talk Back Accessible!

Word / Number games:

Hanging with Friends

$1.99 or free with ads



7 Little Words


Free (In app purchases available, also includes flurry Analytics) Join letter groups to make words which match clues to form the 7 words.


One number Down:



Given a list of nine numbers, work out which one from 0 – 9 is missing as quickly as possible.





A sliding puzzle – 15 pieces in a 4×4 grid. Unscramble to put the numbers in order. Works well with low vision too. Numbers are about 28pt.





Spelling game against friends or the computer


Trivia Crack


Also a free version available

Trivia Crack is the international smash hit game that pits friend against friend in different categories to determine who has the most trivia knowledge. And it’s FREE! Each of the six categories (Science, Entertainment, Art, Geography, Sports and History) has a corresponding character, and the game is won by being the first to obtain all six. Give Willy the Wheel a spin and let chance decide which category you get!

Quiz: QuizUp



A quiz game you can play with friends.


Exercise games:

The Walk


$4.99 (on special for $2.99 at time of writing – 21 May 2014) A cross between an adventure story and a pedometer, this ‘game’ encourages you to walk and as you do, you slowly unlock the story.


Zombies Run



By the same people as “The Walk”, Zombies run is an audio game you listen to as you run / ride an exercise bike or do any kind of cardio – you are a ‘runner’ for one of the last outposts of humanity after the zombie apocalypse strikes!


Adventure / Role Playing games:

Choose to survive



Fun turn and text based strategy / combat game.




$1.82 with Free demo available

Clever set time RPG game.  Four unlabelled buttons (to Game, Shop, Inventory, Statistics) but everything else works well.


Totally Random Hero

(Link currently down – waiting to hear back from author about whether this is permanent or temporary), hopefully temporary, this is one of my favourites.


$1 or free trial of first 7 levels

A text adventure with dragons and warriors, wizards and badgers.


Colossal Cave Adventure



A classic text adventure game where you move around, using objects you find and seek your fortune.


Detectives Choice volume 1 (and others by author)


$3 or free sample.

Detectives Choice is one of a group of text adventure games created by Delight Games. Different games have different settings and themes from detective to the moon to zombies.


Lighthouse Battery (and others by author)


$0.99 or free demo

One of a number of text adventure games created by Better.Apps





an audio narrative story game about a man in an authoritarian society who wants to escape his life by ending it.





An audio adventure game about eavesdropping and meddling with the future.


Codename Cygnus


First few levels free then in app purchase Interactive Audiobook / Audio game. Sometimes doesn’t read screen immediately (swiping left or right prompts it).


Simulation games:




Fly your starship on the assigned route at the highest possible speed!
Orbits of steel… Maximum power to the jet engines… Anti-gravity systems functioning at 100%… The crushing pressure of the hyperspeed!
Let the audio sensors guide you and follow the indications from your robo-navigator. Go full throttle!
Avoid collisions and be the first to cross the line!


VGZ Smart Tennis:



Virtual tennis game.


VGZ Sea Battle accessible game



Battleship game, try and sink your opponents ships by coordinates.


VGZ Mortal Maze



It is a maze game with shooter and adventure features. You are walking in the maze. Monsters and vampires will try to catch you. If you let them catch you, they will kill you. Works best with a physical keyboard.



Link currently down – if anyone has contact details for the author, please let me know so I can try and find out whether this is permanent!



Hold your phone like a key and try to pick the lock.


Eyes Free Golf:



An audio golf simulation game





Become the biggest predator in the ocean.  Designed to be playable without sight however requires talkback to be disabled while playing.


Orange Tree



Grow your own virtual orange tree and harvest virtual oranges


Other games:



Stem Stumper



Brain testing hidden object puzzle game.



Blind Run:


A ‘running’ game with audio prompts (which it seems, I’m a bit bad at).



Sound challenge:


Similar to Bop It, the game gives audio cues and you have to perform the correct action (rotate the phone, tap the screen etc) as quickly as possible.



The gameplay is simple. Listen for the instructions, and follow them as quickly as you can, without a single mistake. If you’re too slow or get one wrong, it’s game over!
▪Completely audio based, no visuals involved!
▪Gameplay with unlimited levels which speeds up as you go.
▪High quality voice acting, featuring rather cute voices (at least, that’s what the testers think)…
▪CD quality sound effects
▪Custom made music that speeds up as you complete more and more levels
▪It’s absolutely free! And not ad supported. We don’t like them either. Yay!

Crazy Bat


You take the role of a bat, and your job is to fly through obsticles without hitting them. Sounds easy? It’s not!
– CD Quality music and sound effects
– progressively speeding gameplay
– Lots of fun and addiction
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, try to get the best highscore of them all!


Keep on Rolling

Link down – if anyone has contact details for the developer, please let me know so I can find out whether this is permanent.


Talking dice game, similar to Farkle / 10,000 / Yahtzee.



$2.85 or Free demo
Are you our Hero?

Help save Earth from the Evil Queen DarkSock in this exhilarating Space shooter!

JumpinSauceRS is a space shooter game aims to allow blind and visually impaired individuals to play a mainstream game with their sighted friends.
We have two versions available to download, this one is the paid version. If you like what we’re doing and wish to support us then please purchase this version, your contribution goes into helping us develop the games accessibility and the evolution of a game world/universe called “The Mists of Audazzle”. If you pay for the game your unique Mists of Audazzle character will receive a medal of honour showing you have supported our mission.

World in Shadow



First AudioGame 3D in Google Play!
World In Shadow is based solely on 3D game sounds.
It is a story where you have to kill wild animals and keep aggressive sound objectives.

Gone is all the light of the world and it has become dark. Scientists do not know the cause but rather know what happened. Your mission is to find out what had happened.
You will have to survive in a world completely dark where animals are aggressive and closer to targets , using only your ears .

Game Mode:
You have to have headphones and make sure you are well placed ( left atrial to left ear and the right on the right ear ) .
Orienta mobile in the direction you want to “see.” You have to hold the phone like when you take a picture.
You walk by holding two fingers on the screen.
To attack your enemies you tap on the screen.

The game is in Beta version, if you find an error please explain it in the comments.
There were several games which I wanted to mention but which I had issues with when I tried them:

B Blind: A clever maze game which vibrates as you get close to the walls. It has buttons to get into the game and select a level which are completely invisible to Talkback so you need sight to get into it.


Seenesthesis: drag your finger around the screen and with feedback, guess the shapes. The menu works with Talkback, but once you are in it, the levels only work with Talkback off.


Rockets and Pumpkins: input velocity and angle to shoot the pumpkin. With Talkback on the instructions aren’t read out. Also can’t double tap (triple tap) with both talkback and magnifier on:

Audio Archery removed as the dev has removed it from the play store.


Know any more games which work with Talkback?  Please let everyone know in the comments below!


Android low vision games.

The quick recommendation: There are lots of games suitable for low vision users, here are some.

The longer answer:

As much as we all buy our devices to ring people, be productive and find out important information…. Most of us want to have fun with them too – after all, everyone else does, and their power can be harnessed for entertainment just as much as utility.  So today I am tackling that all important issue – games!

With many apps, working out how accessible they are for low vision is a matter of seeing how large you can make the font, whether you can change the colour scheme, and if desired, whether it works with Talkback.  For games, it becomes much more complex – there are generally more than two colours, there is movement and often characters, spaceships, gems or other images which need to be interacted with.  Today I wanted to share some of the games I’ve found fairly easy to see – you might find some aren’t suitable at all for you, and you might have your own list of even better offerings – either way, please do share in the comments below!

To find these, I’ve often come across something which may be *almost* great, (eg I found a couple of colour flood games and I loved the idea but I really couldn’t see them well, so I went to “Users also installed” and do a search for similar names, reading the descriptions and looking at screenshots (and sometimes downloading to try) until I came across some more accessible examples.  I’ve picked 10 abstract or puzzle games as those type of games often lend themselves to being easy to see moreso than some other genres as they are often turn based, or have bigger, solid colour pieces to interact with.  This is by no means a complete or possibly even representative sample, and unfortunately none of these games work with Talkback.

TriXOR by Richard Warburton


$0.99 or free version.


Similar to “set” – you are presented with a grid of nine images, which can 1, 2 or 3 of either triangles, squares or circles in either red, green or blue (with backgrounds in harder levels).  You have to tap three which for each attribute (shape, colour, number) must be either all the same or all different (eg one green triangle, two blue triangles and three red triangles, or two blue circles, two blue squares and two blue triangles).  The quicker you find the correct three items the higher your score.

Panels by Numerical




Touch the lit panel as quickly as you can – repeat as many times as possible before the time runs out.  There are numerous similar games available.  I like this because it needs no permissions and you can set the size of the grid, colour of the panels and length of the game.

Colotrix by Mitz Pax




Kind of like a 2d Rubik’s Cube – slide the rows and columns until you end up with all blocks neatly filled in one colour (different levels range from 4×4 with four colours up to 12 x 12 with 16 colours.  No time limit though your time and number of moves are saved in a high score.

Flood Wars by Viacheslav Filonenko



Working from the bottom left corner, choose a colour (4 to 6) and try and fill the board before your opponent (multiplayer available).  Grid size starts at 5 x 8 and gets bigger (smaller squares).  Turn based, no time limit.  Again there are numerous variations on this game available.  I’m recommending this one as it’s completely free and the 5×8 grid is one of the easiest to see I’ve come across.

Lights Out by John Boker




Another game with many variations available.  Tap a square and it changes colour, as do the squares directly above, below, left and right.  Try to change all the squares to black.  No time limit, moves and time recorded for high score.

Squarge by elph


$3.99 or free with ads.


Swap adjoining blocks in a 6×6 grid to form rows or columns of the same colour of three or more.  There is a colour blind option with different colours.  There is a time limit (time increases each time you match a group).  There are lots of ‘Match 3’ type games, this one has one of the easier to see grids.

Poly Wars by load.me indie



Similar to “Risk”.  Move armies around the board to capture it all before your opponents do.  Can zoom in and out.  Turn based, no time limit.  “Area” and “Vitrage” have squares with smaller numbers than other boards (try other boards first).

Hashi by Ivo Blöchliger


$5 or Free


Also called “bridges”.  Each circle has a number, connect circles by horizontal or vertical lines to nearby bridges.  Each circle must end up with the same number of lines coming from it as its number.  Board size ranges from 7×10 (biggest number) to 22×28.  No time limit.

Simon BSC by Markymark




There are many variations of this available.  Tap the squares in the same order the computer does.  This one is basic, with only four colours, but most people can’t get beyond 10 or 20.

Break by Rock Solid Productions:



Blocks slowly fall down the screen (speed and number of columns wide can be adjusted).  Tap in the column to add a block to make complete rows disappear.


Often the best way of finding games is through looking at the “Users also installed” section of a game which is good but not quite accessible, or by doing a search for a similar name.  Let me know how you find the ten examples above!