With the release of Android 4.4 and phones like the Moto X and Nexus, Google Now has become a seriously useful tool. In this TechRepublic Two Minute Drill, Jack Wallen shows you how to set up Google Now and demonstrates a few ways it can help make your Android experience hands-free.

Google Now is Android’s answer to Siri. It’s an intelligent personal assistant that uses a natural language interface to answer questions and a unique Card System to offer information relative to your search history. Google Now first surfaced in Android 4.1, but is really only now becoming a seriously useful tool. Some of the features are only available in Android 4.4. And with certain phones (like the Moto X and the Nexus), Google Now offers even more features.

But what can you do with Google Now?

First, you can get quick access to information based on your search history and location. To access Google Now, long-press the home button and then swipe up. Here you will see cards specific to your location and usage. You can add customize the cards types by tapping the Wand button and then tapping the type of card you want to customize.

Once you’ve read a card, you can get rid of it by swiping it to the right.

The card system is really cool, but with Google Now you can get so much more:

  • You can ask questions: “What is open source?”
  • You can get directions: “Where is the nearest comic book store?”
  • You can call a contact: “Call Hayley Williams.” (She’s not really a contact in my phone, but…well…you get the picture.)

How do you set this wondrous feature up? If you’re using the Moto X, go to Settings | Touchless Controls and make sure Touchless controls is enabled.

You’ll also want to make sure to train the launch phrase so the system can better recognize your voice. This is also done from within the Touchless Controls settings. Tap Train launch phrase and you will be prompted to speak the launch phrase “Okay Google Now” three times. You’ll need to be in a fairly silent room to succeed with this.

With everything configured, you’re ready to go. So, get out here and start asking Google Now really hard questions, like “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”