Firefox’s New Voice Controls Make It As Good As A Smart Speaker

I’m used to yelling at my Google Home and Amazon Echo, not so much my web browser. However, Mozilla is now testing voice-control capabilities for its Firefox browser, and you can join me in screaming at your screen—which is actually a little more fun and useful than it might sound at first glance.

To get started, open Firefox and visit Mozilla’s Firefox Voice Campaign page. Click on the “Get started” button, cough up your name and email address, and you’ll get a link to download the Firefox Voice addon:

Once you’ve installed it, you’ll have to approve a few permissions before you can get going. First, you’ll need to grant it access to your microphone—obviously. Mozilla will also ask whether it can collect and analyse voice transcripts of things you’ve said to your browser. It won’t identify who you are, so I’ll leave this one for you to decide. (I don’t like it when companies have recordings of me, but I also doubt I’ll be talking very scandalously to my web browser.)

That’s all the configuring you’ll have to do, though. To start yelling at your browser, you can either click on the microphone icon in the upper-right corner of your screen or tap CTRL + [period]. As for what you can tell Firefox to do, Mozilla has a giant list of commands for you to try, and the websites that support them, including:

  • Searching the web (“Look up recipes for manhattans”)

  • Search a specific website for information (“Search my Gmail for tickets to Hamilton”)

  • Visiting a specific webpage (“Go to Lifehacker”)

  • Asking a general question (“Who is David Murphy?”)

  • Playing music or videos (“Play Green Day on Spotify”)

  • Controlling audio or video playback (play, mute, pause, etc.)

  • Reading websites to you out loud (“Read this page”)

  • Getting the weather report (“What’s the temperature in San Francisco?”)

  • Translating a website to another language (“Translate this webpage to Spanish”)

  • Getting directions (“Find the nearest sushi on maps”)

  • Setting a timer (“Set a timer for five minutes”)

  • Finding a tab among your way-too-many open tabs (“Find calendar tab”)

  • Generic browser controls (“Open a new tab”)

  • Copying and pasting (“Copy full page screenshot”)

  • Creating shortcuts for commands (“open Lifehacker” > “Give that the name hacks”)

The only downside—with an asterisk—is that there isn’t a wake word to simply trigger Firefox’s voice capabilities. From a privacy perspective, that’s great; however, it is slightly inconvenient to have to click an icon or tap a keyboard shortcut all the time.

I also noticed that the CTRL + [period] shortcut actually loaded up my Firefox Containers context menu, not the microphone. However, you can change the microphone trigger to anything you want by clicking on the icon and then clicking on the gear icon to access the add-on’s settings.

(I also recommend turning off the chime that plays whenever you open the mic, lest you go crazy.)


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