September 09, 2013, 10:31 AM — Google Now might not be all that new, but Motorola's Moto X smartphone comes with a twist on the voice control feature: You can trigger it with a spoken command. Say "OK Google Now," and it'll pop open the Google Now pane and await your command. Here's how to get started with the Moto X's voice commands, along with a few tricks for when it might come in handy.
How to train your Moto X
Before you start using voice commands on the Moto X, you need to train it to recognize your voice. Such training will help the phone filter out background noise and other voices. The trade-off, though, is that other people may have a harder time using spoken commands on your phone.
To start, open the notification panel by swiping down from the top of your screen, and then tap the item labeled Touchless Control. This opens the Touchless Control setup assistant, which provides a quick overview of how to use the system and then asks you to train it with your voice.
The training process is easy: Go into a quiet room, hold the phone a natural distance away from your face, and speak the phrase "OK Google Now" into it when it tells you to. It will ask you to repeat the process three or four times to get a better idea of what your voice sounds like and of the different ways you speak.
Once you've trained your Moto X, you can start using Touchless Control with Google Now. At any time--even when your phone is asleep--say "OK Google Now," and the phone will go to the Touchless Control screen. Speak your command or query, and Google Now will do its thing.
To get a better sense of the sorts of commands you can use, say "Help me" when this screen appears, and you'll see a list of example commands that you can use with Google Now. Don't be afraid to play around with it and try other commands: You can't break anything. At worst, you'll end up with some embarrassing Google searches or some errant calendar reminders.
Putting Touchless Control to work
The Moto X's Touchless Control is more than a novelty. It's a feature that could be useful in various situations when your hands are full.
Hands-free communication in the car: Many states have laws against holding a phone or texting while driving. If you have a hands-free device for use in your car, you can turn to the Moto X's Touchless Control to initiate a phone call ("Call Armando Rodriguez") or to send a text or email message ("Email Armando subject I'm getting sandwiches; do you want one?").
Getting directions: You can use Touchless Control to get directions, but you must touch the screen in order to start turn-by-turn navigation on the Moto X--it doesn't offer a voice command for that task. Still, speaking your destination may by quicker than trying to type it on a touchscreen keyboard.
Checking your calendar: Since Google Now ties into your Google Calendars, you can use Touchless Control to add events and appointments to your calendar, or to find out when your next appointment is coming up.
For example, if you're driving between errands and want to double-check your next appointment, you can ask your Moto X, "When is my next appointment?" and it will tell you.
Don't burn your cookies: Ever needed to start a timer in the kitchen when your hands were covered with raw food? Never fear--you can set an alarm through Touchless Control. Summon Touchless Control, and then say, "Set an alarm for 15 minutes," and it'll bug remind you 15 minutes later to take your cookies out of the oven. You can set multiple alarms if you need to, but you have to set them one at a time.
These are just a few examples of situations where Touchless Control can come in handy. Try issuing different sorts of commands to see what it recognizes, and to get a feel for what works best for you.