YouTube Adds Voice Search & Commands

YouTube Adds Voice Search and Commands to Control its Website

YouTube uses voice search technology to augment it’s website user interface.

We covered this concept briefly in our What Can We Expect From Conversational AI In 2021 post.

One of our predictions for 2021 was the rise in the popularity of adding voice capabilities to software products. Specifically leveraging this sort of technology in touch screen situations.  Software developers will improve their products by removing friction from the touch screen experience by bringing in voice controls.

Following this technique YouTube has added a voice commands input feature that can be used to search queries or navigate through videos on the streaming platform. Despite not being officially announced the feature is pretty useful for YouTube bingers.

Voice commands to search and play content

The new UI feature is simple to use and is very similar to the voice search function found on Android.

Voice commands can be used to scan the app for videos, navigate through results or pages, and even play content. The role also recognizes natural language commands for easy operations and supports multiple languages.

Using The Feature

We tested across 3 different browsers: Chrome, Firefox and Edge and had similar experiences. Click the microphone icon next to the search field. Once the user gives permission to access the microphone on the computer, a box appears with the word ‘listening’ within, and any video playing will pause. Clicking on the microphone button in the box will pause or restart YouTube’s listening for search terms.

YouTube voice search screen

The user says what they are looking for and then presented with the search results. Although not connected to Google Assistant the natural language seems to be fairly sophisticated.

Asking it to show you videos about "chatbot technology videos" will lead to a search of the correct term. However the natural language processing can still be tripped up with certain searches. For example it took a couple of tries to get the correct search for "rasa channel" to bring up the correct Rasa channel.

The search will also understand specific commands, for example If you give a command saying “play Rudimental” it finds and automatically plays a random song by the band. If you just say “Rudimental” in the voice command, it will open the official page of the band and display the list of their albums and songs.

The voice search feature can also search through your personal collections, listing watch histories and libraries, or gathering the latest videos from your subscribed channels. If asked to show the latest videos from a specific channel.

Using the voice search feature is not only limited to searching: it can be used to navigate to parts of the UI:

“Show me my subscriptions" will take you to your subscriptions list.

"show me my watch library" will take you to your watch library list.


The entire feature is essentially the same as the voice search feature added to YouTube’s mobile apps.  In some ways, it’s surprising it's taken so long for voice commands to expand to the website although some browser limitations may have caused this.

Either way voice search is a useful feature to have and voice search for YouTube makes a lot of sense. The WhatsApp platform makes it easy to binge-watch endless similar videos and make it easy to randomly jump around. For kids who may struggle with spelling or other users with less dextrous fingers voice controls could be the new favourite tool. The feedback so far from our 10 year old tester and avid YouTube user is "that's pretty cool I will use that".

At The Bot Forge we feel that adding voice modality to user interfaces makes a lot of sense and a useful way of improving the usability of websites and software products.

Our own chatbot monitoring and analytics platform provides similar features.

Adding this type of feature could be beneficial to your website usability; get in touch, we would be happy to help!

About The Bot Forge

Consistently named as one of the top-ranked AI companies in the UK, The Bot Forge is a UK-based agency that specialises in chatbot & voice assistant design, development and optimisation.

If you'd like a no-obligation chat to discuss your project with one of our team, please book a free consultation.