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Microsoft is developing an exciting new way to navigate Windows 10

Published Dec 28th, 2020 7:06PM EST
Windows 10 Update
Image: Asus/Amazon

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  • Microsoft is developing a new way to navigate Windows 10 computers, a “voice launcher” that will let users interact with the computer using their voice.
  • The voice launcher will work with files and apps, and it will be available anywhere in Windows 10 where there’s a search field.
  • The feature is in testing and should be available to all Windows 10 users in the October 2021 Update.

Navigating Windows 10 might be even easier following the 2021 updates if one of the features that Microsoft is testing makes it past the beta stage. The easiest way to control a Windows desktop is with a mouse and keyboard. The dawn of touchscreen displays brought us a new Windows UI that would respond to our touch. The next step is something that wasn’t necessarily available in previous years, as the technology wasn’t fully developed. That’s voice control, which requires a sophisticated voice engine to power the experience.

Microsoft will soon add a “voice launcher” to Windows 10 to let you interact with apps and files. The new voice launcher would also power the search box, wherever it might pop up in the user interface.

According to Windows Latest, Microsoft started testing an improved version of the software keyboard that includes a new emoji picker and the new “Windows Voice Typing” feature. It’s this feature that’s been added to the search box in File Explorer, the Settings app, and the Start menu.

Screenshot shows the new voice launcher interface in the Start Menu search field. Image source: Windows Latest

The feature will pop up automatically anywhere where there’s a text field with Windows Search API. The feature is accessible via a Windows Narrator shortcut, “Win + H.” If enabled, the “Voice typing launcher” also comes with a handy feature called “Auto punctuation” that can be enabled and disabled as needed.

The voice launcher will support several languages for various regions, including English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

As with other voice-based devices, Microsoft will collect user data to improve its algorithms. Users can opt-out of the experience, which is probably the advisable thing to do with any voice-based assistants, speakers, and other gadgets. On the other hand, the voice-controlled computer experience we see in the movies will not be possible until those computers will fully understand speech, tone, and nuance. That learning curve will involve analyzing speech samples from people ready to share with companies like Microsoft.

Screenshot shows the new voice launcher interface in the File Explorer app. Image source: Windows Latest

“Your everyday use of voice typing could make Microsoft’s online speech tech more accurate for everyone who speaks your language. If you decide to contribute your voice clips, some of these clips will be reviewed by Microsoft employees and vendors,” Microsoft explains. The good news here is that the feature isn’t enabled by default.

That said, there’s no telling whether the voice search feature will be added to Windows 10 next year or later. But if Microsoft’s tests will be successful, the feature will be available on Windows 10 devices after the October 2021 Update.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.