Aside from on Motorola phones like the superb Moto X, Android's 'OK, Google' hotword detection only works when Google Now—or your phone's homescreen—is active. But that may be about to change if a recent report is on the money.
Google is reportedly working on a Moto X-style touchless control feature for newer Android phones. The rumored feature is so exciting it even has two codenames: KITT and 'Android Eyes Free,' according to Android Police.
KITT would let you summmon Google Now functionality with hotword detection or the wave of a hand even if the phone is off. The downside, however, is that the new touchless control activation would only work while your phone is charging, according to the rumor—presumably to avoid draining your phone's endurance away from the wall socket.
The KITT feature may work when your phone is plugged in and sitting on the dresser at home. But most of us are more likely to use this functionality while our phone is charging in the car, when we're saving the battery from getting killed by a navigation app.
The Knight Rider-themed project name (KITT was an autonomous car in the popular 1980s TV show) also suggests the initial focus will be on hands-free commands while driving.
As part of the initial roll out, Android Police says Google would expand how much information it reads out to you while in eyes free mode.
For example, right now in Android 4.4 if you ask about the weather in your location or somewhere else, Google Now will read out the current conditions. To help you keep your eyes on the road, Google could expand voice alerts to reading out parts of web searches, as well as text messages and other notifications as some phones already do.
KITT may just be a pit stop, however, on the way to truly always-on hotword detection for Android. But Google would need to keep the hit to battery life at a minimum before releasing "touchless control for all" from its tether. The report also says hotword detection may work inside Google's stock Android apps even while on battery power, however.
As with any rumor, it's hard to know for sure if the promised functionality will turn up on our phones in the end. But in this case it's hard to imagine the rumored KITT feature not happening.
Google has already proven the feature can work with Google-owned Motorola phones. Now with Motorola heading to Lenovo (pending regulatory approval), Google has no reason to let Motorola keep the feature as an exclusive.
There's no word on when this feature would go public, but hey—Google I/O is right around the corner.