Easter Assistant Showdown: Who has the Best Easter Egg Hunt? Siri, Alexa or Google?

Easter Egg Hunt with Siri, Alexa and Google

It’s this time of the year, which lets us think of Easter egg hunts. Not only the real Easter eggs but also the virtual ones, well hidden in our smart assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google. An Easter egg in computer software is an intentional inside joke or hidden feature, left there from the creators to lead you on a hunt. Let’s see what Apple, Amazon, and Google have prepared for us.

While compiling a list of around 500 Easter eggs, I thought about how to structure them best for you. Soon I realized, I would seriously spoil your Easter egg hunt, by presenting you the results. Instead, let me introduce you to the way how Alexa, Google, and Siri lead you to their Easter Egg hunt. Enjoy!

Alexa’s Easter Egg Hunt

Alexa will lead you straight to her Easter egg hunt when you tell her:

  • Alexa, I am bored

Alexa will give you an example (“Alexa, beam me up”) and tell you that you need to ask her for more hints:

  • Alexa, give me an Easter egg

Alexa will give you a hint. Let’s go through one example (only): “A game I can play involves crushing, cutting and covering.” Easy, isn’t it:

  • Alexa, rock, paper, scissors

And we are into the game. But wait, there is another version if you know The Big Bang Theory:

  • Alexa, rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock
  • Alexa, define rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock

Ok, just one more: Alexa, give me an Easter egg.

“Speak like small green Jedi, if me you ask, can I.”

  • Alexa, can you talk like Yoda?

Alexa will provide you hints in following categories (amongst others):

  • Movies
  • TV Series
  • Books
  • (Video) Games
  • Music
  • Technology
  • Jokes

If you want to take it to the next level: “If you seek Easter eggs that are not too easy, ask for a hardboiled Easter egg. Beware, some might be cheesy.”

  • Alexa, give me a hard-boiled Easter egg

Ok, a final example =) “Try this clue. I don’t advocate cheating, but for old school video gamers, cheat codes are a different story. There’s one in particular from Konami. Can you activate it?”

  • Alexa, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.

Google’s Easter Egg Hunt

Google has a conversational approach to his Easter egg hunt, as soon as you ask:

  • Hey Google, give me a Easter egg (Note, “an Easter egg” sometimes doesn’t work, thanks for the feedback!) 

You will hear the hint, but Google will keep listening for your response (so you don’t have to say Ok/Hey Google again).

“I was talking to the fox the other day, You’ll never believe what he said.”

  • What did the fox say?

Note, by asking: “Hey Google, what did the fox say?”, you can access the Easter egg anytime.

Google also covers many Easter eggs in following categories:

  • Movies
  • TV Series
  • Books
  • Facts
  • (Video) Games
  • Music
  • Technology
  • Jokes

Let’s try one more example: “I am not saying I’ve figured out the meaning of life, but maybe you should ask me about it.”

  • What is the meaning of life?

Google does not support “hard-boiled” Easter eggs, which would be more difficult to find. Maybe he is just omitting the hint?

Siri’s Easter Egg Real Hunt

Siri, will not give you a single hint for her Easter eggs. She truly hides them, so you can only find them by trying. Here are some examples:

  • Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man …
  • Hey Siri, hey computer!
  • Hey Siri, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Hey Siri, what is your best pick up line?
  • Hey Siri, read my a Haiku
  • Hey Siri, what is 0 divided by 0?
  • Hey Siri, “Hi Cortana”/”OK, Google”/”Alexa”

Also here, we find many categories covered.

My Personal Easter Egg Hunt Conclusion

I like Alexas and Googles approach to give us hints. Though it actually spoils the Easter egg idea a bit, it’s fun to hunt this way. Alexa surprises by providing easy and difficult, “hard-boiled” Easter eggs.

Though Siri treats Easter eggs the way they were intended – as a secret – it appears, that Apple has not put as much effort into Easter eggs as Google and Amazon. The list of Alexa and Google Easter eggs which you can find spread all over the internet, is similarly extensive, maybe because of the hints.

Here’s my personal “Easter egg hunt” conclusion:

  1. Alexa, egg-cellent you are the best Easter bunny!
  2. Google, improve your “give me a Easter egg” recognition a bit more until tomorrow (sometimes he gives a Wikipedia response, and sometimes he doesn’t like proper grammar: “an”).
  3. Siri, I mean, yes, you know what an Easter egg is, but you’re so sirious. You need to realize that you are now not only on personal devices like iPhones, Apple Watches, MacBooks, and iPads. You are on HomePods in living rooms and families sometimes just want to have fun, especially during holidays.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Easter egg hunt showdown! Enjoy the holidays and have fun with your smart assistants!

You can find other competitions here:

And yes, if you’ve found a very special Easter egg, please share it with us in the comments below!

Just, one more =)

  • Alexa, Hey Siri/Google, tell us a pun!

Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

Siri, Google and Alexa Musical Showdown

We are at the crossroads. We use our smart assistants mostly for listening to music, but how musical are our assistants actually? How to decide, whether Alexa, Siri or Google fits better to our musical preferences? And if we have decided already, how can we get the most out of our music subscription?

After looking into the many music commands of each and every assistant, we just need to compare them and draw a conclusion. No, it’s not as easy as the pictured guitar battle above, but together we will get there.

What to expect in this post, and what not: we will not look into sound quality or the countless apps, which we can use to stream music to our assistants. You can connect whatever excellent sound system to your assistant and stream whatever great music from wherever.

In this post, we are solely looking into the assistants supported music commands. This is how we define “musical” when it comes to smart assistants in this competition: being able to play the music we like – hands-free – on all of our Echos, Google Homes and HomePods.

If you’ve missed the dedicated post for your assistant, or want to look up specific music commands and features, you can bookmark them here:

How to get there …

It makes no sense to write about my personal preferences when it comes to something as personal as music. What I’d like to accomplish with this post, is to give you a thorough overview, so you can decide for yourself, what is important to you.

  1. We will start with a high-level comparison, where we can see all music commands and which assistant/music service supports them. This gives us the first overview of all musical features and you can start to ponder, which fit your musical preferences.
  2. In the next section, guided by the familiar structure we already used in the dedicated assistant posts, we will look in detail into the features and how well they are supported by Alexa, Google, and Siri.
  3. Last, but not least, we will wrap up our findings, looking into the musical strengths and weaknesses of our assistants.

Comparison Overview

In the table below we can see the many music features on the left and the assistants with the supported music services to the right.

music features overview: alexa, siri and google home
Music Features across Assistants and their Music Services

Siri supports only Apple Music.

Google supports Google Play Music and Youtube Music. Alternatively, you can use Spotify as default music service.

Alexa supports the native services Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime. Here we can also set Spotify as default music service.

Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, which are radio-like services, are equally supported by Alexa and Google.

The musical libraries of the premium services Apple Music, Google Play Music and Amazon Music Unlimited are approximately the same size (more than 40 Million songs), Spotify is a bit smaller (more than 30 Million songs). The monthly subscription costs are comparable.

Here comes the surprise: If we count the fully supported features (2 points), kind of supported (1 point), not supported (0 points), we have a draw. Every assistant scores 31 points with its native music service. Though the supported features vary, overall we can say, our smart assistants are equally musical. This is only a simple mathematical view, weighting all features equally. It is up to you to decide, which feature is more important to you!

Note, below table of contents will help you to quickly jump to the features you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.

[toc]

Controlling the Volume

Of course, all assistants support setting the volume with many different voice commands. Where Alexa only supports level 1-10, Siri and Google also understand percentages.

Controlling the Playback

Naturally, all assistants support playback and stop, skipping forward and back, repeating and shuffling. With radio-like services, we have limitations, whether and how many times we can skip songs.

Navigating the Music Databases

As mentioned earlier the musical libraries of Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Spotify are huge. There are many ways to access your favorite music, that’s why we have to structure this a bit:

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

Accessing the library with the song title, album or artist name is equally supported by all assistants. The radio-like services naturally don’t support that.

Playing by Genre

Genres are just one way to structure music. Since the number of displayed genres is different from the internally supported genres and sub-genres, it is not a criterion. Anyway, here are the numbers: Siri supports 24 genres, Alexa 26 and Google 18. The detailed lists are in the assistant posts under this section.

Playing Activity and Mood-Related Music

All assistants understand activities and moods. Again, the number of displayed (and tested) activities and moods does not indicate anything about the available (curated) stations and playlists. You can find the tested activities and moods in the assistant posts under this section.

Only Amazon – who actually released this feature latest –  mentioned a number of up to 500 activities and moods. Still, my impression during testing was, that especially Alexa often comes back with “I could not find … songs”.

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Siri, Google and Alexa support combining moods, activities, and genres. If there is a station or playlist which fits your request, they will find it. Google and Alexa also on Spotify. The tested mixes are in the assistant posts under this section.

Playing New Music

Playing brand new music or the latest songs by artist is equally supported by all of our assistants. They furthermore support playing the newest music for a genre.

Playing Popular/Regional Music

Our three assistants support popular music equally. It’s just Google which is a bit ignorant when it comes to top music by country unless there is an album for that. But Google supports finding the top regional playlists on Spotify, where Alexa fails.

Playing Something You Rarely Hear

Playing something which you have never heard, can only be tracked on the assistant’s native music service. It is a feature only supported by Alexa and Siri and though Alexa claims, that she can even play songs, which you’ve heard on a specific day and/or time, those commands did not work for me.

Playing Similar Music

Another feature which is only supported by Siri and Alexa: if you like the currently played song, you can ask for similar music. Siri goes a step further and can try to find live versions of the currently played song.

Alexa can search for similar artists, where Siri can differentiate between other, old or new songs by artist.

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

We can tell all our assistants whether we like or dislike a song when using the native music service. This is a great way to tell our assistant, how to personalize suggestions for us.

Google goes the extra mile and supports thumbs up/down also for Spotify.

Playing by Lyrics

This is a powerful feature where you can identify/play songs by lyrics snippets. Unfortunately, Siri does not support it at all. Alexa and Google do, and Google goes the extra mile and offers this feature also for Spotify.

Playing by Describing the Album Cover

This feature is only supported by Google: you can describe whats on an album cover and Google will (mostly) get it right if your description is unique enough. You can find some examples in the dedicated Google post.

Playing by Location etc.

Another unique Google feature, which stems from the vast amount of data Google can collect from you and take into account when personalizing your music suggestions. I have listed the different data sources which Google can use, in Googles dedicated post.

Controlling your Library and Playlists

All our assistants support adding songs to the native music library. Although Alexa claims she can also add songs to your playlists, she failed in my case. So it’s only Siri, which supports both adding to your library and your playlist. Google supports maintaining your Spotify library as well.

Listening to Radio Stations

Our assistants support the radio “station” concept through their native music services. Google and Alexa furthermore support the radio stations from Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.

Getting Music Information

This is an interesting feature for music lovers: how much do our assistants know about the music they are playing? Siri is the winner here.

Alexa and Google only provide basic musical information. Siri can provide additional information for an artist and sometimes even look up who plays which instrument in a song. She can also tell you what song you heard last and whats next on your playlist.

The coolest feature is Shazam, which Apple acquired end of 2017. If you hear a song you like, on for instance your TV, Siri can listen and identify it.

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

This is another feature where Siri shines, by being able to even change the playback speed of podcasts. Otherwise, Siri and Google provide a similar amount of features for podcasts.

Alexa provides only very basic podcast support.

Setting a Sleep Timer and Music Alarm

Alexa and Google support sleep timers and music alarms, which are nice features around starting and ending your day with music or natural sounds.

Siri doesn’t support either, but there is a workaround to simply play your custom playlist when going to bed, which will stop by itself (unless repeat is on).

Conclusion

Mathematically all our assistants are equally musical, but who calculates when it comes to music? It is a matter of your personal preferences, which features are important to you?

The assistants reveal strengths and weaknesses in following areas:

Alexa
Alexa

Strong in remembering what you (never) heard and playing similar music to what you’re currently listening to.

Weak in musical information, podcasts and Spotify support.

GoogleGoogle Assistant

Strong in novel features like finding music by describing the album cover and personalizing your music suggestions based on location and other collected data. Great Spotify support.

Weak in playing similar music and trending regional music.

Siri

Siri

Strong in music information and unique in music identification (Shazam). Very good for podcasts.

Weak in not being able to identify songs by lyrics, and missing sleep timers and music alarms. Siri only supports Apple Music.

Where to go?

  1. If you are musically just into radio services, like Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, pick either Google or Alexa.
  2. If you are a Spotify lover and want most of the features supported, pick Google for now.
  3. If you are a music lover, you won’t get around subscribing to the native premium music services of Amazon, Apple, and Google to get the maximum of the supported features. Pick the assistant, with the musical strengths that fits best to your musical preferences.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this musical “showdown”. You can find other competitions here:

Share if you care and like if you like! =) You are also very welcome to say Hello and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. And please leave your feedback below, no matter if positive or negative. It’s very important for me, to be able to improve this site for you.

I will update the dedicated assistant posts with additional command alternatives in the coming week, making sure, you find the most extensive and up-to-date musical command reference for your assistant, only here on SmartEnlight. Stay tuned!

Making Of: Crossroads

Hey Google, Play Some Music! All The Music Voice Commands

Google Assistant Starr

“Hey Google, play the album with a diving baby and a one dollar bill on its cover.” “Alright, here’s the album Nevermind on Google Play Music.”

Seriously?

There’s a bunch of commands and features in this post, which will surprise you. In this post we will look into the many voice commands you can use to enjoy all the music services supported by Google Home. Let’s dive in …

Just a quick note regarding the voice commands below:

  • Below table of contents will help you to quickly jump to the commands you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.
  • <…> … I will spare you my musical taste, fill in your <title>, <artist>, <genre>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

[toc]

Commands by Music Service

Google Play Music is Google’s native, most extensive music service for Google Home with around 40 Million songs in its library. Here we will find all the music commands, which Google Assistant understands. Other music services provide only a subset.

With YouTube Music, you get access to your personalized stations. You can play any song and also track your favorites (likes) from Youtube. With Youtube Red, which is included in a Google Play Music subscription, you can additionally play your Youtube videos ads-free, have music playing in the background on your android device and download music for an offline mixtape.

Spotify Premium has over 30 Million songs in its library and Google Home supports it like no other. If there is a playlist in Spotify, even for activities and moods, you can access it with Google Home. Novel features like playing by lyrics and album cover description are also supported for Spotify.

Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, since they are radio-like services, have natural limitations around playback and selecting specific music.

Following overview of the available music services, sheds some light on which features are supported, for which service:

Google Assistant Music Voice Commands
Google Home Music Voice Commands across Music Services

Note, if you have not set your preferred service as default music service in the Google Home app, make sure to add “… on Google Play Music”, “… on Spotify”, “…on TuneIn”, etc. at the end of your voice commands.

Controlling the Volume

Following voice commands will change Google’s volume in 10% increments:

  • Hey Google, (change/make/turn the) volume up / down
  • Hey Google, (make it) softer/louder
  • Hey Google, lower/raise (the) volume
  • Hey Google, increase/decrease (the) volume
  • Hey Google, turn it up/down

If you’d like to set the volume to a specific level:

  • Hey Google, (set the) volume (to level) <1-10>
  • Hey Google, volume 3 (Note, that’s the snappy, short command)
  • Hey Google, (set/turn the volume to) 50 percent

Note, you can check the volume with the command:

  • Hey Google, what’s the volume?

And if you need some extremes (level 10 and level 1):

  • Hey Google, volume max/minimum

For muting Google Home, you have following commands:

  • Hey Google, mute/unmute

Controlling the Playback

You can stop and resume playback by saying:

  • Hey Google, play/resume/continue (the music)
  • Hey Google, stop/pause (the music)

But you can also listen to some music you might like:

  • Hey Google, play/shuffle some music

To navigate within an album or playlist, just say:

  • Hey Google, next/previous (song/track/tune)
  • Hey Google, skip (this song)

To navigate within a song, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play (this song) from (the) beginning 
  • Hey Google, restart (this) song
  • Hey Google, jump/skip back/forward (x seconds/minute(s))

For shuffling and repeating we can use:

  • Hey Google, repeat (the) song
  • Hey Google, (turn) repeat/loop on/off
  • Hey Google, shuffle 

Navigating the Music Database

Since there are so many ways which lead to your favorite music in the millions of songs, we need to structure this a bit …

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

If you know what you want to hear, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play (the song/track/title) <title> 
  • Hey Google, play/shuffle (the album/record) <album> 
  • Hey Google, play/shuffle (songs/music by) <artist> 
  • Hey Google, play (the song/track/title) <title> by <artist> 
  • Hey Google, play (the album/record) <album> by <artist> 

Playing by Genre

  • Hey Google, play <genre> music

Following genre list comes from “Improve my recommendations” in the Google Play Music settings on the web (Note, make sure you let Google know your favorite genres and artists):

  • Alternative/Indie
  • Blues
  • Christian/Gospel
  • Classical
  • Country
  • Dance/Electronic
  • Folk
  • Hip-Hop/Rap
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • Metal
  • New Age
  • Pop
  • R&B/Soul
  • Reggae
  • Rock
  • Vocal/Easy Listening
  • World

Playing Activity and Mood Related Music

Google Assistant has some activities and moods defined, which you can use to play music which fits what you are up to. These are mapped to (curated) playlists and stations.

  • Hey Google, play music for <activity>
  • Hey Google, play (some) <activity/mood> music

Here are some activities, I have tested:

  • Working
  • Driving
  • Falling Asleep
  • Boosting Your Energy
  • Relaxing
  • Making Dinner
  • Being Romantic
  • Having Fun
  • Dancing
  • Working out
  • Family Time

Google understands following moods:

  • Energetic
  • Calm
  • Exhausted
  • Focused
  • Happy
  • Party Mood
  • Romantic
  • Confident
  • Sad
  • Angry

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Now comes the crazy part: You can combine some moods, genres and activities. If Google has foreseen your request, there is a matching station:

  • Angry Workout -> station Rock your Body: A Workout
  • Romantic Dinner Party -> station Pop & Indie Easy Listening
  • Sad Blues -> station Winter Blues
  • Classical Music for Sleeping -> station Modern Classical Music for Bedtime
  • Relaxed Country Music -> station Come Away With Me

Playing New Music

To play a station out of your “brand new music” suggestions, just say:

  • Hey Google, play brand new music

If you want to hear some fresh tracks from your favorite artist, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play new songs by <artist>
  • Hey Google, play new <genre> music

Playing Popular Music

  • Hey Google, play the top hits
  • Hey Google, play the top <genre> songs
  • Hey Google, play the top songs from the 80s

Note, for Google Play Music: Google mostly comes back with “Sure, here are some songs”. When compared to the responses in the Google Assistant app, it seems this feature works better from the app.

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

To listen to your favorites on Google Play Music, say:

  • Hey Google, play (my) thumbs up (playlist)

For Spotify:

  • Hey Google, play my songs (on Spotify)

To tell Google, what to put into the thumb-up auto-playlist, just say:

  • Hey Google, thumbs up
  • Hey Google, I like/love this song

If you want to let Google know, that you don’t like a song, you can say:

  • Hey Google, thumbs down
  • Hey Google, I don’t like this song

Playing by Lyrics

If you’re like me, you rather remember the lyrics (snippets) of your favorite songs, than their title. No worries, Google got you covered:

  • Hey Google, play (the song that goes) <lyrics>

Playing by Describing the Album Cover

Sorry, to spoil this feature already in the first sentence of this post. You can describe an album cover, and Google can (sometimes) find the right record:

  • Hey Google, play the album with <cover-description> (on its cover).

Here are some other examples:

  • Hey Google, play the album with four men crossing a street
  • Hey Google, play the album with a prism and rainbow-colored light rays 
  • Hey Google, play the album with two stone faces, facing each other
  • Hey Google, play the album with a banana
  • Hey Google, play the album with neon ice-cream
  • Hey Google, play the album with red lips and a red tongue 

Playing by Location

Google Home is always at home, why to look into location-based music? Well, locations (from your smartphone) are only one example of your data, which Google can take into account when personalizing music suggestions for you.

“Working from Home – Looks like you’re at home”: When you check your Home screen in your Google Music app, you will see different stations suggested, based on (not only) your location. At the gym, the airport, your office or another country? Google will suggest and play different music.

Google has a novel approach to figure out your activities (and moods?). You don’t need to tell Google where you are and what you are up to. Google can basically take all the information it has collected from you to personalize your Google Assistant and music experience:

This basically includes:

  • Web & App Activity: Your search activity on apps and in browsers to make searches faster and get customized experiences in Search, Maps, Now, and other Google products.
  • Location History: A private map of where you go with your signed-in devices in order to provide improved map searches, commute routes, and more.
  • Device Information: Your contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data to improve your experience across Google.
  • Voice and Audio activity: Which helps to recognize your voice and improve speech recognition by storing your voice and audio inputs to your account (for example, when you say “Ok Google” to do a voice search).
  • YouTube Search History: Your YouTube searches to make your future searches faster and improve your recommendations.
  • YouTube Watch History: To make it easier to find your recently watched videos on YouTube and improve your recommendations.

Note: Web & App Activity, Device Information and Voice and Audio Activity are required to operate your Google Home.

Controlling your Library and Playlists

You can control what goes into your music library by saying:

  • Hey Google, add this song to my library

And you can control what you’d like to hear from there:

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist> from my library 

To listen to your own playlists, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play my playlist <playlist>
  • Hey Google, listen to my <playlist> playlist
  • Hey Google, shuffle my <playlist> playlist

Listening to Radio Stations

Listening to radio is as straightforward as saying:

  • Hey Google, play <radiostation> (radio)

Note: if you want to listen to a different service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

Getting Music Information

Google has a bit of information when asked about what’s playing:

  • Hey Google, who sings this?
  • Hey Google, what song/tune/title is this?
  • Hey Google, when was this released?
  • Hey Google, what’s <artist> newest album?

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

For podcasts you have following additional commands:

  • Hey Google, play the <podcast> podcast
  • Hey Google, play the first episode of <podcast> 
  • Hey Google, play the <number> episode of <podcast>
  • Hey Google, play the newest/latest episode of <podcast> 
  • Hey Google, previous/next episode
  • Hey Google, what podcast is this?

Controlling Music Playback on another Speaker

To play on another Google Home / Chromecast device, just say:

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> on <device>
  • Hey Google, stop (playing on <device>)

To play your music throughout your home on multiple devices, you need to create groups. Tap on the three dots of your device in the Google Home app and group it with some other device(s). You can create a group and name it “Everywhere” to play on all your devices.

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> in <group>
  • Hey Google, next (<group>)
  • Hey Google, stop (<group>)
  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> “everywhere”

Setting a Sleep Timer and Music Alarm

To set a sleep timer, you have following commands if the music is already playing:

  • Hey Google, set a sleep timer for 30 seconds/minutes/hour(s)
  • Hey Google, set a sleep timer at 9:30
  • Hey Google, stop (playing) in <duration>
  • Hey Google, stop (playing) at <time>

If you want to specify the time, when starting the music:

  • Hey Google, play music/artist/genre/playlist for <duration> seconds/minutes/hours
  • Hey Google, play music/artist/genre/playlist until <time>

To check how much time is left:

  • Hey Google, how much time is left on the sleep timer?

To cancel your sleep timer, say:

  • Hey Google, cancel the sleep timer

Note: If you have not set the music service you’d like to hear as default music service, or want to hear some different service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

You can control your music alarms with following commands:

  • Hey Google, wake me up to music at 6 AM (every weekday)

Note, this will let Google ask you, which music to play. You can also specify the music together with the time/weekday:

  • Hey Google, wake me up  at 8 AM to <song/album/artist/genre/playlist/radio> 
  • Hey Google, set an alarm for 6 AM,  that plays song/album/artist/playlist/radio, (every weekday)
  • Hey Google, cancel/disable the 7 am alarm
  • Hey Google , cancel/disable (all) alarm/s

Conclusion

Google Assistant surprises with some novel music features. Even more surprising is the generosity to make most of the features also available to Spotify users: We can Like/Dislike, Search by Lyrics and even play by describing the cover on Spotify.

Google appears weak in playlists for regional music and completely lacks playing similar music or music you have never heard. If you ask for music information, you’ll be surprised how little our little fella knows. Well, he’s only two years old, soon.

There are features which only Google can offer, based on the vast amount of data it can collect from you, like your web search, youtube history or your location and more. This puts Google in the position to personalize your music suggestions to the fullest.

I hope you have enjoyed this extensive list of Google’s music commands and it helps you to get the most out of your music services.

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

The musical showdown between our assistants, is already here: Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

If you have any questions or new music commands, please share with us in the comment section below!

For more information from Google, see Listen to music on Google Home.

Alexa, Play Some Music: All The Music Voice Commands

Alexa sings and plays guitar

If you are anything like me, you don’t like to pull out your smartphone to browse for the music you’d like to hear. So you’re standing there, in front of Alexa, wondering what you can say, to get the most out of your Echos and your music service.

Well, Alexa is always awaiting your command.

In this post we will look into the many voice commands you can use, to enjoy all the music services supported by Alexa. Let’s dive in …

Just a quick note regarding the voice commands below:

  • Below table of contents, will help you to quickly jump to the commands you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.
  • <…> … I will spare you my musical taste, fill in your <title>, <artist>, <genre>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

[toc]

Commands by Music Service

Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon’s native, and therefore most extensive music service for your Echos. Here we can look into all music voice commands, which Alexa understands. Other services provide a subset.

While Amazon Prime has a reduced music library with about 2 Million songs compared to Amazon Music Unlimited with 40 Million songs, it also lacks some features, like searching by lyrics and getting all the new songs.

With Spotify Premium having over 30 Million songs in it’s library, you cannot tag your favorites. However, if there is a playlist in Spotify, even for activities and moods, you can access it with Alexa.

Pandora, TuneIn and iHeartRadio, since they are radio like services, have natural limitations around playback and selecting specific music.

Following overview across the available music services, sheds some light on which features are supported, for which service:

Alexa music commands
Alexa Music Commands across Music Services

Note, if you have not set your preferred service as default music service in the Alexa app, make sure to add “…from Prime Music”, “… on Spotify”, “…on TuneIn”, etc. at the end of your voice commands.

Controlling the Volume

Following voice commands will change Alexas volume in 10% increments:

  • Alexa, (change/make/turn the) volume up / down
  • Alexa (make it) softer/louder
  • Alexa, lower/raise (the) volume
  • Alexa, increase/decrease (the) volume

Another way to specifically set the volume level is:

  • Alexa,  (set the) volume (to level) <1-10>
  • Alexa, volume 3 (Note, thats the snappy, short command)

Furthermore you can mute Alexa:

  • Alexa, mute/unmute

Controlling the Playback

You can stop and resume playback by saying:

  • Alexa, play/resume (music)
  • Alexa, stop/pause

But you can also start a station you might like:

  • Alexa, play some music

To navigate within an album or playlist, just say:

  • Alexa, next/previous (song/track/title)
  • Alexa, skip (this song)

To navigate within a song, you can say:

  • Alexa, play (this song) from (the) beginning 
  • Alexa, restart (this song)
  • Alexa, jump/skip back/forward (x seconds/minute(s))

For shuffling and repeating we can use:

  • Alexa, repeat (this song)
  • Alexa, loop (this album/this playlist)
  • Alexa, (turn) repeat (on/off) (Note, “off” will stop playback)
  • Alexa, (turn) shuffle (on/off) 

Navigating the Music Database

There are so many ways which lead to your favorite music in the millions of songs, that we need to structure this a bit …

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

If you know what you want to hear, you can say:

  • Alexa, play (the song/track/title/tune) <title>
  • Alexa, play/shuffle (the album/record) <album>
  • Alexa, play/shuffle (songs/music by) <artist> 
  • Alexa, play (the song/track/title/tune) <title> by <artist> 
  • Alexa, play (the album/record) <album> by <artist> 

Playing by Genre

  • Alexa, play <genre> music

Here are the main genres from Amazons database:

  • Alternative & Indie
  • Blues
  • Broadway
  • Children’s Music
  • Christian
  • Classic Rock
  • Classical
  • Country
  • Dance & Electronic
  • Easy Listening
  • Folk
  • Gospel
  • Hard Rock & Metal
  • Holiday
  • International
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • New Age & Meditation
  • Opera & Vocal
  • Pop
  • R&B
  • Rap & Hip-Hop
  • Rock
  • Soundtracks
  • Vocal
  • World

Playing Activity and Mood Related Music

Alexa supposedly knows around 500 undocumented activities and moods which you can use to play music which fits to what you are up to. These are basically (curated) playlists created by Amazon for frequently requested activities / moods.

  • Alexa, play music for <activity>
  • Alexa, play (some) <activity/mood> music

Here are some activities, which I have tested (musically =):

  • Wake Up
  • Running / Jogging / Workout
  • Party / Partying / Dancing
  • Working / Study / Studying / Reading 
  • Cleaning / Cooking / Dinner
  • Relaxing / Meditation / Chill-out
  • Love
  • Sleeping

Here are some examples for moods, which Alexa understands:

  • Angry
  • Energetic
  • Feel Good
  • Happy
  • Upbeat
  • Sad
  • Mellow
  • Romantic
  • Relaxed
  • Laid Back

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Now comes the crazy part: You can combine some moods, genres and activities. Of course only, if Amazon has created a playlist, which matches.

  • Alexa, play mellow meditation music
  • Alexa, play sad blues music
  • Alexa, play happy latin music
  • Alexa, play classical music for sleeping
  • Alexa, play mellow country music

Playing New Music

Want to hear some fresh tunes? Here’s what to say:

  • Alexa, play brand new music
  • Alexa, play new songs by <artist>
  • Alexa, play new <genre> music

Playing Popular/Regional Music

Interested in what is trending someplace, sometime, some genre?

  • Alexa, play the top/best songs
  • Alexa, play the top/best <genre> songs
  • Alexa, play the top/best songs from the 80s
  • Alexa, play the top songs in <city>
  • Alexa, play what’s hot in <country>

Playing Something You Rarely Hear

If you’d like to hear some rare songs from your library:

  • Alexa, play something I haven’t heard
  • Alexa, play <artist> songs, I haven’t heard

According to Amazon, following commands should also work (they do not in my case):

  • Alexa, play the <artist / genre / station / playlist> I was listening to on <day>
  • Alexa, play the <artist / genre> songs I heard <yesterday (morning / afternoon) / last night>

Playing Similar Music

There’s this one catchy tune and you’d like to hear more like that:

  • Alexa, play more like this/that
  • Alexa, play songs similar to <title>
  • Alexa, play songs similar to <artist>

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

Alexa can play stations based on your preferences:

  • Alexa, play (some other) music I like

If we want Alexa to be able to find our favorite music, we need to tell her what we like:

  • Alexa, thumbs up / down
  • Alexa, I like / don’t like this song

Just in case there’s this one nasty tune hunting us:

  • I’m tired of this song

Playing by Lyrics

If you’re like me, you might rather remember some lyrics snippets of your favorite songs, than their title. No worries, Alexa got you covered:

  • Alexa, play the song that goes <lyrics>
  • Alexa, what’s the song that goes <lyrics>

Controlling your Library and Playlists

You can control what goes into your music library by saying:

  • Alexa, add this song to my library

And you can control what you’d like to hear from there:

  • Alexa, play my music by <artist>
  • Alexa, play some <genre/artist> from my library

To listen to your own playlists, you can say:

  • Alexa, play my playlist <playlist>
  • Alexa, listen to my <playlist> playlist
  • Alexa, shuffle my <playlist> playlist

To create and add to your playlists, try:

  • Alexa, start a new playlist (Note, this doesn’t work for me)
  • Alexa, add this song to my playlist <playlist> (Note, this doesn’t work for me)

Listening to Radio Stations

Listening to radio stations is as straightforward as:

  • Alexa, play <genre/station> radio
  • Alexa, play the station <station>

Note: if you want to listen to a different service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

Getting Music Information

Alexa has a bit of information, when asked about what’s playing:

  • Alexa, what (song/tune) is this?

She can also answer:

  • Alexa, what was the top song in <year>

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

Alexa, supports playing podcasts (with very limited features):

  • Play the (latest episode of the) podcast <podcast>

Controlling Music Playback on another Speaker

To be able to control your music playback throughout your home on many devices, you can either create a Multi Room Music Group (e.g. everywhere) and/or assign your individual Alexa devices to Smart Home Groups (e.g. kitchen). You can control the playback by saying:

  • Alexa, play <song/album/artist/genre> in the <group>
  • Alexa, next in <group>
  • Alexa, stop in <group>
  • Alexa, play <song/album/artist/genre> everywhere

Setting a Sleep Timer and Music Alarm

To set a sleep timer, we can say:

  • Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 seconds/minutes/hours
  • Alexa, stop playing in 1 hour
  • Alexa, cancel sleep timer

You can set a music alarm by saying:

  • Alexa wake me up to music at 6 AM (every weekday)
  • Alexa, wake me up to <song/album/artist/genre/playlist> at 7 AM (every tuesday)
  • Alexa, wake me up to the song that goes <lyrics> at 8 AM (at weekends)
  • Alexa, cancel/disable 7 am alarm
  • Alexa, cancel/disable (all) alarm/s

Note: If you have not set the music service you’d like to hear as default music service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

Conclusion

Impressed by the many music services and commands which Alexa supports, I (again) nearly lost my voice, testing the many commands multiple times.

Strong in features like playing songs by lyrics, Alexa doesn’t give us a lot of music information. The sleep timer and music alarm, are helpful features supported across the different services.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this extensive list of Alexa’s music commands and it helps you to get the most out of your music services.

You can find more Alexa posts here: Amazon Alexa.

The musical showdown between our assistants, is already here: Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

If you have any questions or new music commands, please share with us in the comment section below!

For more information from Amazon, see Amazon: Listen to your music.

Siri and Apple Music: The Many Voice Commands for HomePod, iPhone, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac

O Siri Mio

If you are anything like me, the sound of your new HomePod somehow managed to make you fall in love with music, again. So you are sitting in front of your new speaker, wondering how to get the most out of your Apple Music subscription.

Well, Siri is always awaiting your commands.

In this post we will shed some light on Siri’s Apple Music related voice commands, which are not only limited to your HomePod, but should will also work with your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac (unless indicated otherwise). Let’s dive in …

Just a quick note regarding the voice commands below:

  • Below table of contents, will help you to quickly jump to the commands you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.
  • <…> … I will spare you my musical taste, fill in your <title>, <artist>, <genre>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

[toc]

Controlling the Volume

We have quite some options when it comes to controlling the music volume, unless we are listening on Apple TV, where we have to use the remote anyway. The same goes for Apple Watch, where we can use the crown to change the volume more efficiently.

Following commands will change the volume by 10% increments:

  • Hey Siri, (change/make/turn the) volume up/down
  • Hey Siri, (make it) softer/louder
  • Hey Siri, lower/raise (the) volume
  • Hey Siri, increase/decrease (the) volume

If you forget to indicate whether it should be louder or softer, Siri will check back and ask you.

Here’s another way to set the volume, this time to a specific percentage:

  • Hey Siri, (set/turn the volume to) 50 percent.
  • Hey Siri, 30 percent (Note, that’s the snappy one)

And, if you are brave, you can try:

  • Hey Siri, set the volume to MAX! =)

Controlling the Playback

You can resume and stop playback by:

  • Hey Siri, play (music)
  • Hey Siri, stop/pause

But you can also start your personal station by saying:

  • Hey Siri, play something

To navigate within an album or playlist you can say:

  • Hey Siri, next/previous (song/track/title/tune)
  • Hey Siri, skip (this song)

Note, that “previous” will play a song from beginning, in case you are listening to a station.

To navigate within a song, you can use:

  • Hey Siri, play (this song) from (the) beginning (Note, this works but hangs on Apple Watch)
  • Hey Siri, restart (this song)
  • Hey Siri, jump/skip back/forward (x seconds/minute(s))

For shuffling and repeating we have following commands:

  • Hey Siri, repeat (this album/playlist/track)
  • Hey Siri, (turn) repeat (on/off)
  • Hey Siri, (turn) shuffle (on/off)

Note, we cannot shuffle or repeat songs on radio stations!

Navigating the Apple Music Database

There are so many ways to navigate the 45 Million songs, that we need to structure this a bit …

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

If you know what you want to hear, you can say:

  • Hey Siri, play (the song/track/title/tune) <title>
  • Hey Siri, play (the album/record) <album>
  • Hey Siri, play (music by) <artist>
  • Hey Siri, play (the song/track/title/tune) <title> by <artist> 
  • Hey Siri, play (the album/record) <album> by <artist> 

Note, that some albums on Apple Music combine songs in creative ways:

  • “Hey Siri, play this year’s Rock Grammy nominees”

Another note: Since Siri searches also for movies on Apple TV, make sure you add “music” or “song” to your voice command, in case she comes back with movie suggestions too frequently.

Playing by Genre

The list of genres and sub-genres is huge. Luckily, I found it well hidden in the iTunes affiliate documentation (scroll down to 34 Music). I am only including the main genres here, if you are looking for more specific sub-categories, check out the link above.

  • Hey Siri, play <genre> music

The main genres are:

  • Blues
  • Comedy
  • Children’s Music
  • Classic
  • Country
  • Electronic
  • Holiday
  • Opera
  • Singer/Songwriter
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • New Age
  • Pop
  • R&B/Soul
  • Soundtrack
  • Dance
  • Hip-Hop
  • World
  • Alternative
  • Rock
  • Christian/Gospel
  • Vocal
  • Reggae
  • Easy Listening

Playing Activity and Mood Related Music

Apple Music has a couple of not so obvious activities and moods, which you can use to specify what to play:

  • Hey Siri play (some) music for <activity>
  • Hey Siri play <mood> music

Here is a list of some moods I have tested, I’ve added the station they will trigger:

  • Peaceful / Meditation / Meditate / Bedtime / Sleeping -> station Meditation
  • Happy / Cheerful / Whimsical -> station Happy Music
  • Wild / Party / Fun -> station Partying
  • Stimulating / Exciting / Motivate(d) / Waking Up / Upbeat -> station Motivated Music
  • Angry -> station Angry music
  • Calm / Sad / Blue / Somber -> station sad music
  • Intimate / Erotic / Baby Making -> station Getting it on
  • Mellow / Chill / Soothing -> station chill music
  • Love / Passion / Tender / Romance / Romantic -> station Romantic and Love Music

Here we go with some activities I have tested (musically =):

  • Seperate / Split(ing) / Break(ing) Up -> station Breaking Up
  • Exercise / Cardio / Work(ing) Out -> station Working Out
  • Dinner Party / Cooking / Entertaining -> station Entertaining
  • Dance / Dancing -> station Dance
  • Focus(ing) / Study(ing) / Concentrate / Concentration -> station Focusing
  • Family Time / Safe for Kids -> station Family Time
  • Family / Kids -> station Disney

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Now comes the crazy part: You can combine moods, genres and activities.

  • Angry Workout -> station angry music for working out
  • Romantic Dinner Party -> station romantic and love music for entertaining
  • Angry Music to Focus -> station angry music for focusing
  • Break-Up Funk -> station funk for breaking up
  • Sad Blues -> station sad blues
  • Angry Rock -> station angry rock

In case there is no dedicated station which fits your request, Siri will fall back to a station which fits to one of your keywords.

Playing New Music

If you want to hear some fresh tracks from your favorite artist, you can say:

  • Hey Siri, play the latest song(s) by <artist>
  • Hey Siri, play the newest music by <artist>

Playing Popular/Regional Music

Interested in what is trending someplace, sometime, some genre?

  • Hey Siri, play the top10/best songs from the 80s
  • Hey Siri, play the top/best song from April 1, 2017
  • Hey Siri, play the top10/best <genre> songs
  • Hey Siri, play the best songs from <country>

Note, if you’re outside of US, Siri might come back with: “Sorry, but I don’t know the historical musical charts for your country”. Bummer. In this case you can fall back to the playlists:

  • Hey Siri, play the 80s
  • Hey Siri, play I miss the 80s

Playing Something You Rarely Hear

In case you feel like you’re hearing always the same songs:

  • Hey Siri, play something new (Note, this mostly hangs on Apple TV)
  • Hey Siri, play something I have not heard (Note, this one as well)

Playing Similar Music

There’s this one catchy song and you want to hear more like that?

Since Genius is not available everywhere, theres another great way to listen to similar music:

  • Hey Siri, make/create a radio station based on this song (Note, doesn’t work on Apple Watch)

Apart of that, you could try:

  • Hey Siri, play something else by <artist>
  • Hey Siri, play some old songs by <artist>
  • Hey Siri, play the live version of this song

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

We want to hear songs we like, so we need to let Siri know what we like and what we don’t like:

  • Hey Siri, I like/love/don’t like/dislike this (song)
  • Hey Siri, don’t/never play this song again (Note, this one’s a bit buggy)

And of course your personal station will play the music that you like:

  • Hey Siri, play music I like

Controlling your Library and Playlists

You can control what should go into our library by saying:

  • Hey Siri, add this (album/song) to my library

And you can control what you’d like to hear from there:

  • Hey Siri, play my music by <artist>
  • Hey Siri, play some <genre/artist> from my library

There’s a massive library of (curated) playlists in Apple Music. We can access them this way:

  • Hey Siri, play (a/the) playlist (from/by) <artist> (Note, just making sure that you’re still aware of the snappy commands: “Hey Siri, play playlist Elvis”)

Siri cannot create playlists, but of course she can fill and play your playlists:

  • Hey Siri, play/shuffle my <playlist> (playlist)
  • Hey Siri, add this song to my <playlist> playlist (Note, does not work on a Mac)

And, just in case you feel in the mood to tell her what should come next:

  • Hey Siri, after this song, play <title>/ some <artist> (Note, does not work on a Apple Watch)

Listening to Radio Stations

Listening to radio is as straightforward as saying:

  • Hey Siri, play <radiostation> (radio)

Note, you cannot navigate backwards in radio. “Previous” will play a song from the beginning.

Getting Music Information

Siri is a knowledgeable music lover. You can ask her many questions related to music:

  • Hey Siri, who sings this?
  • Hey Siri, what song/tune/title is this?
  • Hey Siri, when was this released?
  • Hey Siri, tell me more about this artist (Note, this doesn’t work on Apple TV)
  • Hey Siri, what was the last song called/named? (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac and Apple Watch)
  • Hey Siri, what’s the name of the next song? (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)
  • Hey Siri, what year is this song from?
  • Hey Siri, what’s <artist> newest album?
  • Hey Siri, who plays the <instrument> on this (song)? (Note, this doesn’t work on Apple TV)
  • Hey Siri, how many songs are on this album?
  • Hey Siri, what’s the station? (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)
  • Hey Siri, what was the top song in <year>?

Watching a movie and like the song? (Note, this won’t work with AirPods, Apple Watch or Apple TV)

  • Hey Siri, listen to this song
  • Hey Siri, Shazam this

After that, just say:

  • Hey Siri, play this song

and you will find the song in your music app. Make sure to like it or add it to your library/playlist!

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

For podcasts you have following additional commands (Note, podcasts don’t work on the Apple Watch):

  • Hey Siri, play the <podcast> podcast
  • Hey Siri, subscribe to this podcast (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)
  • Hey Siri, play it one and a half times / twice as fast / half speed / normal speed (Note, this doesn’t work on Apple TV and Mac)
  • Hey Siri, play the first episode of <podcasts> (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)
  • Hey Siri, play the newest episode of <podcast> (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)
  • Hey Siri, play my newest podcasts
  • Hey Siri, what podcast is this?
  • Hey Siri, subscribe to <podcast> (Note, doesn’t work on a Mac)

Conclusion

Pleasantly surprised by the many, many Apple Music voice commands Siri understands, I nearly lost my voice testing them on all the devices.

The limitations on Apple TV, Mac and Apple Watch seem more like bugs, than device specific restrictions. Apple will need to fix this on it’s way towards ONE Siri across all devices.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this extensive list of Siri Apple Music commands. Maybe it helps you too, to fall in love with music (again), if you have not already?

For more Siri posts, see: Apple Siri.

The musical showdown between our assistants, is already here: Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

If you have any questions or new music commands, please share with us in the comment section below!

How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

iRobot Roomba and Google Home

It must have been a strange moment for Mr. Colin M. Angle, CEO of iRobot, when he presumably announced summer 2017 his plans to sell the mapping data share maps for free with customer consent of his newest robotic vacuum cleaner (Roomba) models to one of the big three (Amazon, Apple, Google). Facing a broad push-back due to obvious privacy concerns, he communicated: “That’s a misunderstanding”, and stated, “iRobot will never sell your data.” Reuters, New York Times, and SmartEnlight had to change their article by replacing “sell maps” with “share maps for free with customer consent”.

Well, a perfect time to take our good old, reliable, mapping-data free, infrared (IR) controlled Roomba and make it compatible with Alexa and Google. It’s not only the voice control, which makes this tinkering with Logitech Harmony useful. We will see, how we can teach Harmony to control (almost) any IR device, plus we will be able to use Logitech’s Schedule Activity feature to conveniently program, when our little Roomba friend shall start his cleaning sessions throughout the week.

Preparing our Roomba

Assuming you have your entertainment center and your Harmony Hub in front of your couch, the probability is high, that if you park your Roomba under your couch, infrared might reach it. Roomba will be out of the way, for the rest of the day. If the Hub cannot reach it, an IR mini blaster placed on the floor of/under the media cabinet (where Roomba cannot reach it when cleaning) will help.

Setting up Harmony

Chances are that your Roomba model is already in the Logitech Harmony database. However, in this post we will teach Harmony the Roomba commands with the original remote, since Logitech’s configuration for this Roomba (model 871) did not work, and Logitech’s support forum is full of questions which state the same for other models.

Anyway, it’s good to see how we can teach Harmony ourselves, since you might end up or already have, with some IR controlled device which is not in Harmony’s database.

Note, you will need your original remote to add devices manually!

Adding the Roomba to Harmony

Logitech Harmony Roomba - adding an unknown device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – give your Roomba a model number, which Logitech does not know.

We need to add a new device and name the model number our own way, e.g. manufacturer “iRobot”, model: “My871Roomba”. Harmony app will then come back with “We didn’t find your iRobot My871Roomba …”, confirm by tapping “My device is correct”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Confirm Entering Unknown Device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Confirm Entering an Unknown Device

Harmony will tell us now that we can add devices – which are not in the database –  manually, if we have the original remote. Confirm by tapping continue.

Harmony will ask us, which type of device our Roomba is. In fact, it does not matter what we enter here since robotic vacuum cleaners are not in Harmony’s list. We can select entertainment device, a list pops up, where we can select Home Control. In the next screen, we can select “none of the above”. Harmony will ask us, whether we have our original remote control, which we can confirm by tapping “yes”.

Teaching the Harmony Hub our IR Commands

This is going to be a bit time-consuming. But bear with me, as we will teach Harmony all 7 commands, to be able to use our Harmony app as a full original remote replacement to control our Roomba.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching Commands Introduction
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands Introduction

Note, there are IR teaching tips in the app at the bottom of every “teach commands” screen. The following worked pretty well for me:

  • Place strong batteries in the original remote (and don’t forget to remove them when you’re done)
  • Direct the remote at a 45-degree angle towards the top of the Hub (just like in the Harmony illustration),
  • about 2-3 inches away from the hub,
  • from the side where your windows are (minimize other light input) and
  • press the remote button quickly/lightly.

You might need to repeat the process up to 3 times. You might as well try changing the angle, distance and how long you press the remote button. A green checkmark is what we are looking for.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Adding the first 2 commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands

We start by teaching the Power Toggle (=Clean Button on the original remote), then Direction Up. We skip the Direction Down, as we don’t have this feature on the original remote. Harmony will leave us with this configuration. To be able to configure the other commands, we need to go to the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select Harmony Setup, Add/Edit Devices and Activities, Devices, and select our device. Note, you will find this place helpful to tweak any of the hidden features of your Harmony.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching the Missing Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching the missing commands

Click “Add/Fix Command” and teach Harmony the other 4 commands: Direction Left, Direction Right, Dock, and Spot.

Since Roomba requires us to first press the Clean Button 2 times, the first time a bit longer to “turn on” and a second time to start the cleaning process, let’s add and teach the missing command “Clean” by tapping “Command Missing”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Power On/Off 3 Seconds
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Power Toggle 3 Seconds

Finally, to simulate the long press to power Roomba on, we need to tap “Fix Power Settings” from the Devices menu. In the next screen leave “Turn off when not in use” (the little guy is noisy, we will hardly Watch TV when he is around). The next screen is also fine with “Using a single button to power Roomba on/off”. In the final screen, make sure to prolong the “Power On Delay” (3 secs works in my case, could be longer for your Roomba) to simulate a long keypress.

Testing our IR Commands

Logitech Harmony / Roomba - Device Control Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Device Controlling our remote toy car

Now for the fun part: It’s time to test whether all trained commands work. Put your Roomba somewhere in front of the Harmony Hub and select the device from the Devices Screen. Start with the Direction buttons: It’s almost as fun as driving a remote-controlled toy car, isn’t it? =)

On the next screen, test the power toggle and Clean, Dock and Spot commands. You need to press the Power toggle a bit longer to wake up Roomba and then the Clean, Dock, Spot.

Chances are, that some of our commands do not work. Nothing happens, even when pressing longer. In this case, you need to go back to fix those commands by teaching them again.

Creating our Roomba/Cleaning Activity

Logitech Harmony Roomba Creating Activity
Logitech Harmony / Roomba Creating our Cleaning Activity

We have configured all of our Roomba commands, and they are working. It’s time to create our “Cleaning” or “Roomba” activity (however you prefer to name it).

Add an Activity from the bottom of the Activities screen and set icon and name. Edit the start sequence and add the step iRobot / Clean to start the cleaning after powering up.

Test the Activity with your Roomba in front of your hub. You should hear a beep for Roomba turning on and then he should start the cleaning process. If you stop the activity as long as Roomba is in the line of sight with your Hub and Mini Blasters, he will turn off.

Done, we are almost done! =)

Place your Roomba under your couch, or press the dock button so he returns by himself. Now, repeat testing the activity. If your activity does not start, try adjusting Roomba’s dock position (for me facing a wall 90 degrees from the Hub works fine) and/or adjust the Mini Blaster.

Congratulations! You have successfully upgraded your Roomba to work with your Logitech Harmony Hub!

Customizing the Buttons of our Harmony App

Though we see the proper commands when we look at our Roomba from the Devices Screen, we still need to adapt the buttons we see on our Activities Screen.

Let’s do this quickly. It’s best to do this while the activity is running, so let Roomba meanwhile clean someplace else.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Adjusting our Activity Buttons

From the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select “Edit/Reset” and then “Edit Buttons”. The direction buttons work fine, just delete the rest of the useless buttons Harmony has put there and map the remaining four commands either to the second screen, or  3 commands to the first screen (you could omit e.g. the “Power Toggle”, and press the “Clean” longer instead).

Synching and Using Alexa and Google Home

Making our new activity available to our smart assistants is as easy as saying: “Alexa, discover devices.” or “Hey Google, Sync my Harmony”.

Alexa will tell us, that she couldn’t find any new devices, which is OK. You will find your new activity under Alexa’s Smart Home Scenes.

Google will ask us, whether we would like to talk to Harmony (duh!), and Harmony will tell us that she is synching our devices.

Before testing the voice commands, make sure that your activity is turned off in the Harmony app.

  • “Alexa, turn on cleaning”
  • “Hey Google, tell Harmony to turn on cleaning.”

You will hear Roomba’s familiar beeping.

For Google you might want to create a shorter Shortcut like “Turn on Cleaning”, see Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands for details.

Using Your (Hidden) Roomba with the Assistants

Logitech Harmony Roomba One Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Putting all buttons on one Screen

When you start your activity, Roomba will start cleaning and when he is done, get back to the dock, hiding under your couch. I usually activate Roomba by voice command and stop when he comes in front of the couch either manually or by voice command to empty the bin and then start the cleaning activity again (by voice or manually, just be consistent).

If you have less dust than me, you can just let him do his job a couple of times without interrupting him. For programming Roomba’s weekly schedule, you can use the “Edit Activities”/Schedule feature. Just don’t forget you need to empty his dustbin, so he performs well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It is not only intended as a Roomba How-To but as a general overview on how to “teach” Harmony any IR controlled device you might have at home, which is not yet part of your Logitech Harmony configuration. And by adding devices to Harmony Activities, we have them magically available with Alexa and Google!

For a general overview of Logitech Harmony, see: Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion

Find the dedicated assistant posts here:

The comparison of the assistants in combination with Logitech Harmony is here:

Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

Showdown Logitech Harmony

Let’s find out, which of our assistants supports Logitech Harmony better. We will compare configuration, voice commands, and assistant specific smart home features.

Now, that we have thoroughly examined Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion, and we looked into the setup of our two assistants, it’s time to compare them and draw our conclusions. Siri, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the party and even if she would have come (on a Raspberry Pi project), I am afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep up with Alexa and Google Home.

If you are interested in the setup, review, and voice-commands of a particular assistant with Logitech Harmony, you can find the dedicated posts here:

Comparison of the Two Assistants

Please note, as we are living in the exciting age of AI, any of the features below can change silently overnight, if Logitech, Amazon, and Google decide to improve and update.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=3 /]

So, how to read this table?

Still, as with every assistant comparison, most is a matter of personal taste. How do you like to set up, configure and talk to your voice assistants?

Configuration

You will find two columns for Alexa, as she supports two different skills, the red and the optimized blue skill. They are different in functionality and in case you have two Harmony hubs, you will need to install both. Google Home natively only supports one Harmony hub and the equivalent of the red skill.

If you like to tinker with 3rd party cloud services, you could also use Yonomi, and what have you, to support multiple Harmony hubs on both assistants. But that’s another layer of complexity and another cloud service which needs to be up and running to mediate between the assistants and Harmony.

Both Assistants import the Harmony activities and up to 50 favorite channel names you choose. Logitech has implemented the same brilliant configuration options for both, where you can select what you’d like to import and specify friendly names.

My personal conclusion is that Alexa, through the onboard support of two skills and two Harmony hubs is the winner in this section. We don’t need to mess around with 3rd party services, yeah!

Voice Commands

The “regular” voice commands – “ask Harmony to …” – are equally supported by both assistants. Alexa additionally supports streamlined voice commands through the blue skill, where we can omit the “ask Harmony to …”. Furthermore, with the blue skill Alexa’s common commands, like pause, resume, volume up/down etc. are handled by Harmony, when an activity is running.

I find the voice responses from Google Home, “for that you might like Harmony …”, “let me get Harmony” and then another AI voice for Harmony which confirms the command, mostly after command execution, just creepy and useless.

Personally, I have never seen such a smart voice integration like the Alexa and Harmony blue skill. Again, voice commands are a very personal choice, but whoever prefers short snappy voice commands, will love the blue skill.

Assistant Features

As we have seen in our dedicated Google post, we can workaround with Google Shortcuts to create snappier voice commands and get rid of some pointless dialogues. However, it’s a lot of configuration work to create a shortcut for each and every Harmony action and favorite. In the end, we cannot streamline it to the point that it becomes as efficient as Alexa’s blue skill.

Alexa Routines only work with the blue skill. We can combine Harmony activities and favorite channels with other smart home devices, like lighting, and set the right scene for an activity (remember our candlelight dinner routine?).

My Personal Conclusion

  1. Congratulations Alexa! You are the winner in this Logitech Harmony competition.
  2. Google, now that you’ve seen what can be done, go ask Harmony for a better integration. We don’t like to create so many shortcuts, that’s your job!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

Now it’s your turn: Which integration do you prefer? What are your favorite features and voice commands? Looking forward to your comment below!

Logitech Harmony and Alexa: Setup, Voice Commands and a Candlelight Dinner

Logitech Harmony Alexa

This Valentine’s post is a story of appreciation, harmony and ultimately … love. In this post we are going to connect Alexa with our Logitech Harmony Hub, only to find one of the loveliest integrations of voice control. Promise.

On top we will create a “candlelight dinner” routine for Alexa, to dim your lights, start your music and say something nice. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you have not set up your Harmony devices, activities and favorites yet, it is a good time to do so. Refer to the post Logitech Harmony: a Hub and its Elite, Ultimate, Companion for the Logitech Harmony setup.

The Red and the Blue Skill

Logitech started with the red skill a long time ago. The functionality is equivalent to the current Google Assistant integration (which in fact, also has a red icon). You have to say: “Alexa, ask Harmony to …”.

Alexa Harmony Skill page
Alexa Harmony Blue Skill

But then something strange happened. Last summer Logitech fell in love with Harmony, or was it the other way around? So they put in much more effort and created a blue skill, which simplifies controlling Harmony by simply omitting “ask Harmony to”. This does not sound like a big deal, but if you think of commands like “Alexa, volume up”, how is Alexa supposed to know, which volume to increase, TV or Echo?

The magic is implemented by handing commands, like volume to Harmony, as soon as you start a Harmony activity. When you turn an activity off or ask Alexa to play some music, the control is handed back to Alexa. The same happens, when you do not ask Alexa any Harmony related commands for 30 minutes. Smart.

Note, if for whatever reason the control goes back to Alexa and you would like to control Harmony, just turn on the activity which is already running to reconnect.

So, which Skill to take?

It sure is a matter of taste, but as speech recognition veteran I prefer the efficient, snappy blue skill to keep the commands short. It also has the advantage to be categorized as “smart home” skill in Alexa terms. Your Harmony activities and favorite channels will appear under the Smart Home Scenes in the Alexa app, so you will be able to add the activities and favorites to Alexa routines, which we will do in the “candlelight dinner” routine.

Alexa Harmony Red Skill Installed
Alexa Harmony Red Skill

Since we will install a second hub, we will also install the red skill for that. As mentioned in previous posts I am not a big fan of 3rd party services like Yonomi, IFTTT, Stringify etc. because they add another layer of complexity and require an additional cloud service to be up and running 24/7 to mediate between Alexa and Harmony. I’d always recommend using onboard tools whenever possible, but in this case, we are stuck. Unfortunately, the red skill is not a smart home skill. We won’t see scenes in our smart home configuration and we won’t be able to rename the “ask Harmony to” commands to our liking via Alexa Routines.

Setting up Harmony for Alexa

First, we need to make sure that all the activities and favorite channels we want to speech-enable are already setup in the Logitech Harmony app. Open your Harmony app and make sure what you find is what you want to integrate with Alexa.

Back to the Start

alexa browser scenes screenshot
Alexa Smart Home Scenes (Browser)

In case you linked any of those skills earlier, let’s get you back to the start, so you can start with a fresh installation. Open alexa.amazon.com in a browser and navigate to Smart Home scenes. If you see (too) many old Harmony activities and favorites, you have the option to “Forget All”, when scrolling to the bottom. But wait!

Caution! Forgetting all scenes will also remove smart home devices and groups. Smart home devices can easily be discovered automatically by Alexa, however, groups need to be recreated by you. Check your Groups folder and figure out what takes longer. In my case, I had many activities and favorites already duplicated, so I chose to “forgot all” and recreated the groups.

Make sure to clean up any Harmony scenes, otherwise, you might find duplicates after the setup process (and they are difficult to spot and forget later on).

Setting up the Blue Skill

Alexa search Harmony Skill
Alexa Search: Harmony Skill

Open your Alexa app and search for “harmony” in your skill section. You should see both skills listed, pick the blue one. In case you see a “disable skill” button, tap it to unlink Harmony from Alexa.

Click “Enable” to re-link your Harmony skill to Alexa. The familiar Logitech login screen appears, enter your Logitech account where your Harmony configuration is stored and sign in. Authorize Amazon to access your Harmony Remote data.

Alexa Harmony Settings
Alexa Harmony Settings Restored

If this account was already linked before, you will see a notification “Your Settings have been restored”. Note, that at the bottom of this page you can verify/change your Harmony Hub selection. Pick your main (e.g. living room) hub and tap next on the top right.

Harmony Activities
Alexa Harmony Activities

A list of your Harmony activities appears, where you can select which activities should be controlled by Alexa and assign friendly names. Note, that “Music” is not an Alexa friendly name as it triggers playing music from Alexa and not the Harmony activity.

The next page displays your favorites. Again, you can customize which channels should be controllable by Alexa and assign friendly names.

Unbelievable. We are almost done.

Alexa Harmony Link Blue Skill
Blue Skill Sample Commands

In the final screen you see a couple of sample commands, tap “link account”.

Last but not least, you need to run “Discover devices” so Alexa can find your devices and scenes.

You are now able to control your Harmony with following voice commands:

  • Alexa, turn on (the) ACTIVITY / e.g. TV
  • Alexa, turn on FAVORITE / e.g. NBC
  • Alexa (increase/decrease) (the) volume (up/down)
  • Alexa, play/pause/resume/(un)mute/rewind/fast forward

Candlelight Dinner Time

Let’s create our candlelight dinner routine. In the Alexa app open the Routines section. Tap the “+” on the top right to create a new routine. Click the “When this happens”, select “When you say something” and enter “candle light dinner” (Note, the space between “candle” and “light” was required in my case).

Alexa candle light dinner routine
Candlelight Dinner Routine

Now, click the “add action”, pick Smart Home and either choose to “control devices”, in case you do not have any pre-configured lighting scenes or choose “control scenes”, in case you have predefined scenes for different light settings, like in this example.

Add the smart home Harmony action “Turn on stereo” (use your friendly name for playing music) controlled by Harmony, and make Alexa say something nice by adding the action “Alexa says” and picking one of the compliments.

That was quick. Give it a minute until Alexa is updated to recognize the command and there we go:

  • Alexa, candlelight dinner

The light dims down. A bit more light at the dining table. Smooth music starts playing from your entertainment center. Alexa says: “You’re like the sunshine on a rainy day”.

Don’t forget the candles! =)

Setting up the Red Skill – Secondary Hub

In case you have a second Harmony hub, you can install the red skill. The setup process is identical to above:

  • Search your Alexa app for “harmony” and pick the red “Harmony – Secondary Hub” skill.
  • In case the skill is already enabled, disable the skill and tap “Enable” to re-link.
  • Log into the Logitech Account where your hub configuration is stored.
  • Authorize Amazon to access your Harmony Remote data and select the second hub.
  • After configuring the Harmony Activities and Favorites with friendly names, link the account.

Your secondary hub voice commands are:

  • Alexa, ask Harmony to turn on (the) ACTIVITY / e.g. TV
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to turn on FAVORITE / e.g. NBC
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to (increase/decrease) (the) volume (up/down)
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to play/pause/resume/(un)mute/rewind/fast forward

Conclusion

Having all your Harmony activities and all your favorites available as voice commands is great. But going the extra mile to provide streamlined commands in such a smart way, makes Logitech Harmony and Alexa the perfect couple.

We are missing the activities and favorites from the second hub in our smart home control and have to use the longer commands or a 3rd party service. It would be great if the red skill could also act as smart home skill, so we could streamline the commands ourselves with Alexa Routines.

The option to use Alexa Routines to combine setting the lighting scenes and a harmony activity into one voice command with the blue skill is very powerful.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! You can find more Alexa posts here: Amazon Alexa.

For a comparison to Google Home, please see: Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

If you’d like to speech enable any IR controlled device, see: How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

Have you managed to create your version of a “candlelight dinner” routine? Appreciate your feedback below!

Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands

Google Assistant and Logitech Harmony

In this post, we will connect Google Assistant with our Logitech Harmony Hub. In case you have not already set up your Harmony devices, activities and favorites, it is a good time to do so. Refer to the post Logitech Harmony: a Hub and its Elite, Ultimate, Companion for the Logitech Harmony setup.

Setting up Harmony for Google Assistant

You might have tried to add Harmony through the Home Control section of your Google Home app, only to find that the action is not available there, where all the other smart home apps are.

The setup process starts as easy as saying “OK Google, ask Harmony to link my account”.

Are you a hero?

Google Logitech Harmony app linked
Google Assistant – Logitech Harmony app already linked

In case you get the response from Harmony “It looks like your Logitech Harmony account is already connected …”, you might have bravely walked down the stony path before on your own, only to find yourself lost in Google space.

No worries, let’s get you back to the start:

  1. Open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right.
  2. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of this Harmony app page, find the “Unlink” link and click it.

Linking Harmony to Google Assistant

By now, you should hear the response “It looks like your Harmony account is not linked yet …”, when you say: “OK Google, ask Harmony to link my account”.

  1. From here you have two options to link Harmony, pick the one which works for you:
  • Google Logitech Harmony app
    Google Assistant – Logitech Harmony app – not linked

    Either open your Google Home app and find a blue box titled “Link to Harmony” on the Welcome Screen. Tap the LINK button.

  • Or open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it. At the top of the app page, you should find a LINK button, click it.

2. Now we should see the familiar “logi” login screen. Login to the Logitech account where your Harmony Hub settings are saved. Authorize Google to access your Harmony remote.

If you linked this account before you might see the screen “Your Settings have been restored”, tap the arrow on the top right.

Selecting Activities & Favorites

google logitech harmony select activities
Google and Logitech Harmony – Selecting activities

A list of your Harmony activities pops up. Here you can check which activities should be controlled by Google. You can define new alternatives for your activities by tapping “Add friendly name +” or delete suggested alternatives by tapping the little “x”.

Note, if you want to create shortcuts later on, as described in this post, you can neglect the friendly names, as we will define them in the shortcuts.

On the next screen, you will find a list of the favorite channels that you have specified during your Harmony setup. Check which favorites you would like to control.

Note, some “friendly names” are reserved for Google (e.g. “music”), but it seems that this is not checked here. In case you find that particular activities or favorites do not work for you later on, the screens above are the right place to rename them.

Google Logitech Harmony link account
Google – Logitech Harmony – Not so fun commands

On the final screen, you will see a list of not so fun commands which all start with “Hey Google, ask Harmony to …”. Tap the “Link Account” button.

Done? No, not yet.

By now, you are able to control Harmony by saying:

Hey Google, ask/tell Harmony to (turn on/off) / (change/switch to) (the) ACTIVITY / FAVORITE

as well as

Hey Google, ask/tell Harmony to pause / play / rewind / fast forward / increase/decrease volume

Not too bad, but no, we do not like schizophrenic AI, where we have to ask Google to ask Harmony to do something. Hearing two different AI voices with whom we have to discuss that a simple activity like turning on the TV should just happen, gives me goosebumps. But we can only fix/shorten our voice commands, the Google Assistant & Harmony voices will keep hunting us.

Creating Google Assistant Shortcuts

Unfortunately, there is no easier way to shorten the commands, than to create Google Assistant shortcuts for each and every Harmony command.

Again, we have two options to open shortcuts, pick the one which works for you:

  • Google Assistant Shortcuts menu
    Google Assistant Settings Menu with Shortcuts

    Either, open the Google Home app and select “More Settings” under the top left menu. Google Home opens the Google Assistant app settings screen and if you scroll down you should find the “Shortcuts”, tap them.

  • Or alternatively, open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it. When you scroll down this app page you will find a “Manage Shortcuts” button, tap it.

What are Google Shortcuts?

Google shortcuts give us the option to say one thing and make Google hear another. This way we can say for instance “Hey Google, good morning” and make Google hear “Stop and tell me about my day”, which is a nice way to stop Googles alarm in the morning.

We can specify up to five different phrases we can say to make Google hear one other phrase. With some restrictions – the first command must not require Google asking back –  we can combine two voice commands into one by using an “and” in between.

Note, Google “knows” the Harmony commands and even without creating shortcuts, will come up with “For that, you might like Harmony. Wanna give it a try?”. To get rid of this question, we need to specify shortcuts.

Sample Shortcuts

Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony
Google Assistant Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony

Here are some sample shortcuts – based on our configuration during Harmony setup – which help to shorten the commands and immediately summon Harmony. Of course, you can and should adapt your shortcuts to your liking. However, expect that some of your favorite shortcut names need some tweaking before they work. I have tested following shortcuts thoroughly and they work:

  • To power off any activity (entertainment devices), enter: “Turn off TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn off”
  • To turn on an activity e.g. “Watch Apple TV” activity, enter: “Turn on Apple TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn on watch Apple TV”
  • To turn on the “Listen to Music” activity, enter: “Turn on Stereo” – “Ask Harmony to turn on stereo” (assuming stereo is a friendly name. Note, “music” does not work for Google)
  • To turn on the “Watch TV” activity, enter “Turn on watch TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn on watch TV” (watch out, the “watch” was important in my case to make it work)
  • To pause/resume playback, enter “TV pause” – “Tell Harmony to pause”
  • To resume playback, enter “TV resume” – “Tell Harmony to resume”
  • To rewind, enter: “TV rewind” – “Tell Harmony to rewind”
  • To fast forward, enter “TV fast forward” – “Tell Harmony to forward”
  • To turn the volume down, enter “TV volume down” – “Tell Harmony to decrease the volume”
  • To turn the volume up, enter “TV volume up” – “Tell Harmony to increase the volume”
  • To switch a channel up, enter “TV channel up” – “Tell Harmony to channel up”
  • To switch a channel down, enter “TV channel down” – “Tell Harmony to channel down”
  • To switch to a favorite channel e.g. “CNN”, enter “Watch CNN” – “Tell Harmony to switch to CNN”
Google Assistant Shortcuts 2
Google Assistant More Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony

Wow, a lot of work to get rid of the “ask harmony to …” and the “for that you might like Harmony?” question.

Make sure you provide some alternatives for the commands if you and your family want more than one phrase to control an activity.

Note, sometimes Harmony comes back with “I am unable to apply this change to this particular activity”, this usually happened to me when quickly switching commands, just repeat the command and it should work.

Conclusion

Harmony commands, activities, and favorites are accessible through Google Assistant.  The integration provided is suboptimal. You need lengthy, unnatural phrases to access the Harmony functionality and in most cases, you will end up in a pointless dialogue with Google and Harmony.

To adapt the Harmony integration to our liking we can use Google Assistant shortcuts. However, we need to create a shortcut for every activity and favorite. We can’t get rid of Googles “Ok, let’s get Harmony” and the subsequent Harmony confirmation.

Please note, since I am not a big fan of 3rd party services like IFTTT, Stringify, etc. as they add another layer of complexity and another cloud service which has to be up, Google Assistant shortcuts are the only onboard tools I would recommend.

Another weakness of the Google Assistant Harmony integration is a missing list of supported activities and favorites. It is only during the configuration phase, that we can see (and change) available activities and favorites. At least we can refer to our shortcuts list, once we have built it up.

We can only hope, that Google and Harmony will improve their integration to save us the work of creating so many shortcuts manually. Since July 2017 we know that it can be done, but more on that in the upcoming post about Logitech Harmony and Alexa.

UPDATE 2018-05-04: Google is listening to us and announced yesterday: It’ll also be even easier to control home entertainment using Logitech Harmony hub-based remotes with the Google Assistant. The new, simplified voice commands will let you go directly to your favorite channels, control volume, or pause a show. You will no longer need to say “talk to Logitech” to control your TV, and can use more natural language like “play channel 4.” I will update this post (and the assistant showdown) as soon as this new feature is available.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison to Alexa, see Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

If you’d like to speech enable any IR controlled device, see: How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

If you have any questions or Google Assistant & Harmony shortcuts you would like to share, please leave your comment below.

Logitech Harmony – a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion

Logitech Harmony Elite

How many remote controls do you (have to) use?

How many times are you searching for one of them, only to find you need the other one? Switching input channels and turning devices on, on multiple remotes, every single time.

What if it would take you only one, single touch?
Or, if you prefer handsfree: “Alexa/Hey Google, turn on NBC”.

How easy would it be for the whole family? No need to learn multiple remotes and features.

And yes, your lighting can dim down when the movie starts, no additional remote or voice command required.

A quick remark: Since this became by far the longest post, ever, I think a table of contents might help you to get an overview and jump to sections you’d like to (re-)visit. Enjoy!

[toc]

Welcome to Harmony

It comes as no surprise, that we find the Logitech Harmony Remotes under Logitech’s “smart home” product category. The Harmony product line serves as universal remote not only for your entertainment but also for some of your smart home devices.

If you want to briefly jump back in time and check out the exciting history of remote controls, see the post: Introduction to Smart Entertainment: A Very Brief History of Wireless Remote Controls.

In this post, we will look into setting up and configuring our Logitech Harmony remote to control all of our devices at once, with only one touch. In the subsequent assistant posts, we will enable the integration with Google Assistant and Alexa to be able to control all our devices with voice commands.

Sorry, no Siri here (yet), unless you check out some Raspberry Pi projects, more on this in future posts.

Who is Logitech?

Logitech logo
Logitech Logo

Based in Switzerland, Lausanne and California, Newark, Logitech has become a major provider of PC and mobile accessories. Logitech offers speakers and cams, mice and keyboards, headsets and it’s currently fastest growing segment, gaming accessories.

The Harmony has a long history going back to 2001. Originally created by the Canadian company Easy Zapper, which got acquired by Logitech in 2004.

Logitech recently received public attention, when trying to discontinue the support of the Harmony Link, the predecessor of the Harmony Hub. Logitech received so much attention, that it decided to replace all Harmony Links with Harmony Hubs, free of charge.

Logitech Harmony Product Line

The current lineup consists of the bundles Harmony Ultimate, Harmony Elite and Harmony Companion. The Hub and the Harmony 950 (the remote from the Elite bundle) can be separately purchased.

Our personal Harmony journey started with the Harmony One back in 2010. We upgraded to Harmony Ultimate and Hub in 2015, got another Hub in 2016 and recently upgraded to Harmony Elite with Hub.

So, what’s a Hub?

Logitech Harmony Hub
A nice little dust trap: The Logitech Harmony Hub

You might be used to remote controls, but what is a Hub in this context?

  • The Hub supports additionally to infrared (IR), also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to control devices.
  • The smartphone Harmony app, which turns your mobile into a remote control, connects to the Harmony Hub through your Wi-Fi.
  • A Hub is required if you would like to link smart home devices, like Philips Hue.
  • Since the app uses Wi-Fi and the remotes use radio frequency (RF) to connect to the Hub, you don’t need to point your remote at your devices. The Hub could be placed inside closed cabinets, so you can even hide all your devices. It has 2 wired IR Mini-Blaster so you can reach different parts of your cabinet from your hub.
  • And last, but definitely not least: if you want Alexa and/or Google Assistant support, you need the Hub.

What’s the difference between the Harmony remote models?

The Logitech Harmony Companion features smart home buttons on top and a numeric pad on the bottom but lacks the touchscreen. It does not have any IR emitters itself and therefore works only via Hub. Up to 8 devices are supported.

Logitech Harmony Elite and Ultimate
Two Logitechs in Harmony: Logitech Harmony Elite and dirty old Logitech Harmony Ultimate.

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate has media controls on top, features a touchscreen and lacks dedicated smart home controls. It supports up to 15 devices.

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the newest model, has the media controls below the touchscreen and has additional smart home controls on the bottom. The rechargeable battery can be user-replaced. It supports up to 15 devices.

The Gist of Harmony

There are certain concepts which are beneficial to understand before diving into the Logitech Harmony world.

Your Harmony Account: All your settings, from all your remotes (you can have up to 15) and Hubs are saved in your Logitech MyHarmony account. This not only helps to migrate from one model to another, it also makes it possible to connect your Harmony hub to Alexa and Google Assistant.

Logitech Harmony – Your Devices: You will start by adding your devices. These can be entertainment or smart home devices. Wi-Fi connected devices can only be found through the Harmony Hub. Some IR devices need to be manually added, by specifying the manufacturer and model number. You will be able to access all your devices commands anytime through the “devices” tab in the app and on the remote.

Logitech Harmony – Your Activities: An Activity is the core concept of Harmony. There can be only one activity active. Activities consist of startup and shutdown commands for all devices grouped into an activity. Startup commands usually power up all the devices needed and set the correct inputs, while shutdown commands take care of powering off your devices. When you switch the activity, Harmony will keep the devices still required turned on.

Note, your devices might be configured for HDMI CEC. You may need to deactivate this feature since it interferes with Harmony’s Activity concept.

Automatic Mapping of Remote Buttons: Logitech suggests some activity types, like “Watch TV” based on your devices and then automatically maps the correct device commands to your remote control. Your volume control buttons will be mapped to your AVR, media buttons like pause, play, record, etc to your satellite/cable box, and so on.

Are your devices supported? With over 270.000 devices supported, chances are high, that yours are supported as well. You can query Logitech Harmonys Compatibility Database here (scroll down for smart home devices). If your IR controlled device is missing, there is an option to “learn” IR commands from your original remote control. We will look in detail at this feature in future posts.

Preparation

IR needs line of sight. Place your hub inside the cabinet, close to your devices. Use one IR mini blaster to reach additional devices inside and place one on top of the cabinet to reach your TV or any device on top if it. Once your hub is plugged in, it needs half a minute to boot up. Power the charging station and put your remote in.

From here on, we will use our Harmony mobile app to configure our remote and Hub.

Logitech Harmony Setup

1. Connecting and creating Your Harmony Account

Logitech Harmony Setup
Logitech Harmony Setting up the first Bridge

The initial setup process is lengthy but straightforward. We start by selecting to “set up a new hub”. We pick our Wi-Fi network and enter our Wi-Fi password. Next, we need to create our Harmony account and verify it by e-mail.

Note, if you already have a Harmony remote and want its settings backed up, you can create a new Harmony account and import the devices and activities from your old remote.

2. Adding Wi-Fi Devices

Logitech Harmony found WiFi Devices
Logitech Harmony scanning WiFi Devices

The Harmony Hub will scan our Wi-Fi network for supported devices. Select the devices that you want to be assigned to this Hub. If you plan to add another hub/remote, for instance in your bedroom, exclude any Wi-Fi devices you would like to control from there.

3. Adding Missing Devices

Add any other (IR) entertainment devices, which are not connected via Wi-Fi, by entering the manufacturer and model number.

4. Adding and Grouping Home Control Devices

To add home control devices like Philips Hue, select the Home Control menu. Let the Hub search for the Philips Hue bridge and confirm by pressing the center button of your Hue bridge.

Logitech Harmony Grouping Home Control Devices
Logitech Harmony Home Control Groups

Now, we need to re-group our lights, since Philips Hue rooms are not imported. In the Harmony universe, one light can be part of many groups, which gives you the flexibility to address parts of your living room and the whole living room together.

Note, that at the end of the setup process, any of the groups you create now, can be mapped to one of the four Home Control remote buttons. You will be able to turn the groups on and off, as well as dim them with your Harmony Remote (Elite & Companion).

5. Creating our first Activity: “Watch TV”

Logitech Harmony Creating our Watch TV Activity
Logitech Harmony Selecting the Devices for our Watch TV Activity

Based on the devices you have added, you will see a different list of suggested activities. Especially when you are starting with Harmony, I’d recommend to use the suggested activities rather than creating your own custom activities, since they automatically map your devices most common commands to your remote control.

It depends on your entertainment setup, whether you listen to the sound of your TV, a soundbar or use an audio/video receiver (AVR) which serves as the center of your home theater system and connects your components providing surround audio. In our example, we pick the living room TV, cable box, and AVR. In the next step, we need to power on our devices with the Harmony app.

Logitech Harmony Setting Input Device
Logitech Harmony Input Settings of our first activity

Now, we can set the input channels. Since the cable box connects via HDMI with the AVR Input “CBL/SAT” we select this channel along with the TVs input channel “HDMI 1” through which the AVR connects to the TV.

Logitech Harmony Input Testing
Logitech Harmony – Testing our first activity

The next screen checks whether we see and hear what we expect, and finally, we can also adjust our home control devices, when we start and end an activity.

Let’s dim down the TV area by selecting Couch: Nightlight, but only after sunset.

A final test will turn off all devices and then re-start the activity.

Note, in case the devices do not behave as expected, Harmony might adapt device parameters in the background during the setup process. Just hang in until everything works.

6. Selecting our favorite Channels

Logitech Harmony Favorites Setup
Logitech Harmony – Setting our Favorites

In the next setup step, we can specify up to 50 favorite channels, which are imported (including icon) and displayed in the app and on the remote touchscreen.

7. Mapping the Home Control Buttons

Logitech Harmony Mapping Home Control Buttons
Logitech Harmony Mapping our Home Control Groups to the Home Control Buttons

Our final step is to map the home control groups created in step 4, to the home control buttons of our Harmony Remote. A short press will turn a group on, a long press will turn it off. The last group turned on via the home control buttons, can be dimmed using the rocker switch labeled with “+/-“.

Using your Logitech Harmony

Using your remote

Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Activities
Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Activities

With the touch buttons below the remote screen, we can swiftly switch between our “activities” and our “devices”. We can use the “devices” menu in case we occasionally want to control some device, which is not part of the current activity.

Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Help
Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Help

Let’s turn our “Watch TV” activity on. When something with our activities does not work as expected, we can select “Help” from the configuration menu, to have our Harmony try to fix the activity.

Dependent on which devices are used in an activity, you will find different pages on the remote control touchscreen. In our case, we can swipe between activities, favorites, a num pad, and a bunch of other commands. Commonly used commands are automatically mapped to the remote control buttons.

Using the app

Logitech Harmony Activities Tab
Logitech Harmony App: Activities Tab

Opening the Harmony app on a smartphone welcomes us also to our main screen: the Activities list. From here we can turn our activities on and off. Or we can access all commands of a device directly through the devices tab.

As soon as an activity is turned on, we see the controls which belong to the activity from all the devices involved, usually with multiple pages, we can swipe through. The bottom menu of our app features a question mark, which offers fixing power on and input switching anomalies and editing the currently active activity. Next to it, we find an innovative touch screen input to control our devices with one and two finger gestures. And finally, a button to return to the control pages.

Using the Harmony app on a tablet, it shows us an optimized layout, with activities and devices accessible from one screen.

Logitech Harmony App on iPad
Logitech Harmony App Layout on iPad

Tuning your Logitech Harmony

So far, we have only used the basic features of the Logitech Harmony. In this section we will spot the “hidden” configuration options we might need to fine-tune our devices and activities.

Customizing Devices

Logitech Harmony Add-Edit Devices and Activities
Logitech Harmony – Hidden under Menu / Harmony Setup / Add-Edit Devices & Activities

Through the “burger” menu top left on our app, we can find the Harmony Setup menu. When we tap “Add/Edit Devices and Activities”, we can find an extensive menu of configuration options.

Looking into the “devices” list, we can find following device dependent options:

  • Add/Fix Command: for fixing/configuring specific device commands of one device.
  • Fix Delay: with four different delay settings (some devices need some time to process one command before another can be executed).
  • Power settings: We might add devices to activities, which we do not want to power off when switching activities.
  • Input Settings: Some devices offer different ways to switch between input channels. A list, a toggle, or direct commands.
  • Command repeats: some devices might need a repeated IR signal to react (quicker).
  • Device Versions: Some devices offer multiple “IR languages”, here you can specify your version.

Customizing Activities

Back to our “Add/Edit Devices and Activities” menu, let’s tap the activities and have quick look at our “Watch TV” activity.

1. Edit Start Sequence

Logitech Harmony Adding Steps and Delays
Logitech Harmony – Adding Steps and Delays to create our “Watch Netflix” activity

This option offers us to add additional steps/delays to our activity. Here is an example of a custom “Netflix” activity running on Apple TV. The added steps switch to the Apple TV home screen, pause (the Apple TV needs some time to digest the commands), then go two apps down and hit the select to start the Apple TV Netflix app.

Note, you could of course also add a “Netflix” activity via a Smart TV input channel or Fire TV stick, etc. this is just an example of how to customize activities to your liking. The trick here is to make sure you find a stable starting point for navigation commands, so your activities have the same reference point when they start (“Home”, “Back” for Apple TV).

We can also edit home controls to specify what our smart home devices should do when we start an activity. For instance dimming our Hue lights, by switching to a predefined Hue scene.

2. Edit End Sequence:

This menu lets us specify additional steps/delays when an activity is turned off and configuring related home control commands.

3. Customize Remote

This powerful option displays us a picture of every remote control button. We can tap a button and customize for every activity, which of our devices should receive which command or sequence of commands.

4. Schedule

You can program any activity to start and to end at a certain time or at sunrise/sunset, on specific weekdays.

5. (Soft) Keyboard

In case you have devices which support text input for browsing/searching, you can add your Harmony Hub as a bluetooth keyboard to your device. This will offer you a soft keyboard input from your Harmony app.

Customizing Remote & Hub

Logitech Harmony Configuring the Buttons
Logitech Harmony -Configuring the Buttons

The “Harmony Setup”, “Add/Edit Devices and Activities” hides under the menu “Remote & Hub” another access to customize your remote buttons. Here you can configure your home control buttons, activity control buttons and device control buttons for long/short press as well as create command sequences.

Adding a Second Hub

Adding a second hub/remote to your Harmony account is as easy as installing your first one. Remember, you can specify some other Harmony account to copy existing remote configurations like devices and activities from.

Through the “burger” menu, top left in your app you can switch between the Hubs you would like to control.

Note, that multiple Harmony Hubs are not supported by Alexa and Google Assistant (again?!). We will look into workarounds for our upcoming assistant posts.

Troubleshooting & Final Tips

Logitech provides an extensive Harmony Knowledge Base, a community forum, and e-mail support.

There seem to be different opinions on whether to use the desktop Harmony app or the mobile one. To me, it seems a personal preference, since both apps offer similar functionality (and I don’t like the slow Silverlight based Mac desktop app).

Conclusion

No wonder it took me so long to write up this post, Logitech Harmony offers many features. The setup process is straightforward for common activities, the app guides you nicely through setting up your devices and activities and testing them. The complex features are well hidden from beginners, the customization options are extensive.

Is it worth to upgrade from Ultimate to Elite? Some like the new Elite remote layout with the touchscreen on top, for me it’s the Home Control buttons. Though I am not excited about the Philips Hue integration, which seems quite slow when controlling many lights, having the Philips Hue scenes available is a big help during configuration. Missing HomeKit/Siri support is disappointing.

To sum up: the Logitech Harmony remotes bring harmony to your devices. It takes time to configure them properly, but this time is well spent. Once working, it’s going to be a single touch to control your entertainment and (parts of your) smart home setup.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

In the assistant posts we look into the setup of Google Home and Alexa to speech enable our Logitech Harmony:

In our Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google? we will compare how well our assistants support our Logitech Harmony.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with Logitech Harmony, please leave your comment below.

Introduction to Smart Entertainment: A Brief History of Wireless Remote Controls

Electrical Exhibition in 1898, Madison Square Garden

It is a rainy September afternoon in New York. We are at the first Electrical Exhibition held at Madison Square Garden. A tall, skinny man is standing next to a big pool, surrounded by an excited crowd. In the pool we see a 4 foot long miniature ship. The man’s mustache is trembling as he commands with slavic accent: “Now, we will move the boat to the rrright!”. The crowd is marvelling at the mini boat, which indeed takes the ordered direction. One man recovering from speechlessness, shouts: “Move it to the left!”, only to freeze open-mouthed in amazement, as the boat follows his command.

Yes, it must have been like that. Otherwise I cannot explain how it comes that some people seriously referred to the event back in 1898, as the first demonstration of voice control.

The First Voice Wireless Remote Control: Teleautomaton

What Nikola Tesla actually did, was demonstrating his remote control. I seriously doubt that Tesla wanted to trick the people into believing that it’s his or the audiences voice, which is operating the boat. He was standing behind his rather big remote control, which he had to operate manually. While he was explaining his demonstration, people were staring at the boat, which was magically moving around. Some just got it plain wrong.

The “teleautomaton”, how Tesla called it, was patented under the title „Method of an apparatus for controlling mechanism of moving vessels or vehicles”. His remote control is based on radio waves and this was first presented by Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge in 1894. Lodge demonstrated at Oxford the similarity of radio waves to light and was able to increase the distance of transmission up to 55 meters. He used a radio signal detector, called “coherer” which is based on findings of Édouard Eugène Désiré Branly in 1890, but this must have been a rather boring demo.

The First Multifunctional Remote Control: “Telekine”

Moving forward in time to the next cool demo, we jump to Paris. It’s 1903, we are at the Paris Academy of Science. A bearded man with spanish accent demonstrates his remote control, with a rather unusual robot. Leonardo Torres y Quevedo “Telekine” resembles a boat, but this time not in water. Ok, another mini boat but without water, maybe the demo was not that great. Anyway, the idea behind it definitely was. His ship robot was able to perform 19 different actions, rather than Teslas 3 (left, right, stop).

From the simple “on/off” mechanisms we saw before, executing an action, depending on whether a signal is received or not, he defined a method for controlling any mechanical or electrical device with different states of operation. A transmitter sends a codeword, in form of a binary telegraph signal, and the receiver can do different things depending on this codeword.

Torres-Quevedo was already some years before that into remote controls. He wanted them for testing his airships without risking some poor pilots life. Though, the first application of his remote control concept was a tricycle, which he was able to control from the distance of around 30 meters, before he actually built his receiver into a real boat which he controlled at the distance of 2 kilometers.

Torres-Quevedo has posthumously received 2007 the IEEE Milestone award for these early developments in remote control in 1901.

Both, Tesla and Quevedo tried to sell their technology to the military, both failed. Both were fed up and stopped working on remote controls.

Drawing of Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, some unknown inventor and Nikola Tesla pondering on remote controls.
Rare Picture: Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, some unknown, frazzled inventor and Nikola Tesla contemplating remote controls.

The First Wireless Radio Remote

During World War II many were working on remote controls for the military. Philco ranked as 57th US military contractor, sold from 1939-1941 the “Mystery Control”, as first consumers wireless remote. The first wireless remote for a radio looked like a monstrous wooden box with a dial-phone, but it was already battery operated.

The First TV Remotes: Visible Light and Ultrasound

Eugene Polley, working for Zenith Electronics, developed the first wireless TV remote control in 1955. It operated with visible light, which was suboptimal. Robert Adler, I usually omit the nationalities, but he was Austrian, invented in 1956 the first wireless sound based remote control, also for Zenith.

Teletext and Infrared

The consumer remotes were pretty simple back at the time with up to 4 buttons. With the advancement of teletext we had to enter numbers and so in 1980 the first infrared wireless remote controls with the well known numeric keypad were developed.

Universal Remotes

In 1985 Philips introduced the first universal remote under the Magnavox brand and marketed it with a “Smart, Very Smart” campaign. This was the first time the term “smart” was coined around consumer electronics.

Even the Woz, sorry I mean Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, had his startup working on a universal remote in in 1987, but he sold it a year later.

By 2000 every household had too many remotes and people started looking into universal remotes to combine the many into one.

So, where are we today?

Nowadays remotes are not only a convenience feature. Mostly we cannot find the many commands we need on the device itself, but rather on the devices remote. Todays universal remotes come in different shapes and features.

Remote Hubs

Some of them have WIFI hubs, so we can install apps on our smartphones and tablets and use them as remote control. As most electronic devices are using infrared (IR), which requires line of sight, the connection between an actual universal remote control and the hub can be based on radio frequency (RF), which does not require line of sight, so we can hide the many devices in media racks. To make sure that every device gets its IR signal, some hubs provide small IR blasters, which we can place close to the devices. Apart of WIFI and IR, also bluetooth has established as remote control standard and is also supported by some universal remote controls.

The One Remote

The actual universal remotes mostly have programmable touchscreens, motion sensors and vibration feedback for better usability. We can connect them to a Mac/PC, or program them with apps. The configurations we need for our entertainment or smart home devices can be downloaded from a huge database. In case a device is missing, we can teach our remotes to learn the commands (mostly). And last but not least, they are smart and can combine the many actions needed to navigate our entertainment systems into one single activity.

Todays Cool Demo

Today, you could say “Turn on CNN” and: Your lights dim, your TV flips down from the ceiling turning on, receiver and cable box turn on, TV and receiver switch to the right input channel, the cable box to CNN. Voilà, CNN it is.

Though this is a rather common example for what we can do with remote controls today, I believe, Nikola Tesla and Leonardo Torres y Quevedo would be impressed!

I hope you enjoyed this short introduction into smart remote controls and smart entertainment. Appreciate your ideas and feedback in the comments below.

Where to go from here?

Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion will give you an overview of the product line, concepts, setup and features of Logitech Harmony, which we are using since 2010.

In the assistant posts, we look into the setup of Google Home and Alexa to speech enable our remote control:

Finally, we compare the capabilities of our assistants in Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?.

You’re into music?

Find the detailed music voice commands for all supported music services in these posts:

If you’d like to know which of our assistants is more musical, see Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to smart entertainment!

Still, more to come in this section, stay tuned.

Other Links:

A picture of Nikola Tesla’s Teleautomaton
A picture of Leonardo Torres y Quevedo’s Telekine
IEEE paper on the Telekino of Torres-Quevedo
Gizmondo article with a picture of the Mystery Control
The Logitech Harmony Product Line