Ok, we were a bit disappointed. There were quite some bugs in the initial integration of Logitech Harmony and Google Home. Guess what? It took some time and now the bugs are fixed. Time to update this post to reflect the recent improvements in setup and voice commands. And, we’ve also tested the integration with the Google Nest Hub, which appears to be an excellent Logitech Harmony voice and touch companion.
A BIG THANK YOU goes to all of you who take the time and share your Google Home & Logitech Harmony experiences, questions and answers in our discussion section, like Andy, Brandon, David, Francis, Jason, Jeremy, drkfiber, DudeDad, Stuart, Viking, Mikell, Nik, Jon and Francesco! Only together, we’ll figure it out …
Jason, thank you for co-testing countless hours when we were trying to make sense of the initial release. You’ve highlighted many concepts I am re-using here!
Before we begin …
In case you have not set up your Harmony devices, activities and favorites yet, please refer to our post here: Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion. You need to complete the Harmony setup first before you can configure the Google integration.
If the new update is not available in your country yet, or you don’t like the blue Harmony service and prefer the red retired one, please see our older post here: Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands. Maybe the old setup can help in your case. You will also find an overview of Google’s ready-made routines, custom routines, and scheduled routines.
What has changed?
Before we dive into the setup, a couple of remarks on why this is an important update. This is basically a summary of the observations we were discussing in the comment section of the old post(s) above:
- The old (aka “retired” or “red”) integration, required to set up the Logitech Harmony “link” for every user when using voice match. With this update, we expect Logitech Harmony now to be part of the home control devices (like our lights, thermostats, cameras, etc) which we can share with the Google Home apps new “household” feature.
- For the old integration, we had to create custom routines to avoid saying “Hey Google, ask Harmony to …” and again, since we cannot share our custom routines with our family, we had to recreate them, for everyone.
- To summarize: for those who know Alexa’s “blue skill” for Harmony, with this update we expect to see similar features, for those who don’t care about Alexa: with this update we expect a solid, functional, snappy integration, where we do not need to create custom routines and which our families can also use, without additional work on our side.
Let’s set up Harmony for Google Home
Google’s Home App Update
Google’s Home app has received a makeover and displays now all of our smart home devices like lights, thermostats, cameras, etc. with a new, more graphical rather than textual user interface.
This goes in hand with the release of the Google Nest Hub, which offers us a touchscreen and with that a mixed voice/touch experience. When you, for instance, tap the microphone button in the new Google Home app on your smartphone and just say “lights”, Google will turn on all your lights and the app will show you controls to dim the brightness for the whole group or individually.
Our Logitech Harmony is obviously not a light and no additional screen will currently be displayed in our Google Home app to further control our Harmony activity or to select one of our favorites. Still, this mixed voice/touch experience is the gist of the new Google Home app update and can be best experienced with the Google Nest Hub. When you swipe down on the smart display and tap on Media, you’ll see:
- Harmony Activities, and if supported by the Harmony activity you tap on, the following sections:
- Control section (On/off, Play, Pause, Rewind, Stop, Forward)
- Volume Section (Volume Up/Down, Un/mute)
- Channel section (Harmony favorites)
We can use the touchscreen to silently control our Logitech Harmony. And even better, when we issue a voice command, the Nest Hub will not only perform it but also automatically open the corresponding section on the display. If you have the Nest Hub around, where you usually watch TV, you can easily mix voice commands and touch control to whatever fits best for you.
The main screen of the updated Google Home app offers us “Quick Actions” on top, to:
- Turn our lights on and off (all or by room)
- Play music and set the volume on all our cast devices
- Broadcast a message to all Google Home devices
- Display a feed from our security cameras
- Manage our Routines
- Open our home settings, and finally …
- The plus button “Add …”, which enables us to set up services, add home members, create speaker groups and homes. Here we can find the new, blue Harmony service. But before we install it, let’s get rid of the old “red” one first.
In case you have the old, now retired, red Harmony Action installed, let’s unlink it:
- (Force) quit the Google Assistant app
- Tap the microphone icon at the bottom of the Google Home app.
- The Google Assistant popup will ask you “Hi, how can I help?”, tap on the blue compass icon in the upper right corner of the popup. This takes us to the Google Assistant app and you should see a “Explore” text box on top of your screen. In case you end up someplace else in the Assistant app, tap the compass icon (now on the bottom left) of the Google Assistant app.
- In the Explore box on top of the screen, search for Harmony. A red Harmony Action will appear, tap on it.
- Scroll all the way down until you see an “unlink” button.
- Tap on it and we are done.
Linking the new, blue Harmony Service
Now we are ready to link the new Harmony integration:
- In the Google Home app home screen, tap the “+” button named “Add …”
- Tap “Set up device”
- The top entry “Set up new devices” is for new Google Homes, so we need to counterintuitively tap on “Have something already set up?” in the “Works with Google” section.
- Tap the search icon on the top right and search for “Harmony”
- A blue “Harmony” service will appear, tap on it
- In the upcoming “Logi” screen select your preferred way of linking to Harmony (Amazon, Facebook, Google or email). We prefer email. Note, the screen display is not optimized for smartphones with a notch, you’ll need to scroll down a bit, to find the option.
- Enter the e-mail address where your Harmony Hub is registered and tap sign in.
- Here we need to authorize Google to access our Harmony remote, tap “authorize”.
- If we were linked to Harmony before, a screen will inform us that our settings have been “restored”.
- We can switch between Harmony Hubs, in case we have multiple. Check out Jason’s trick below for avoiding Yonomi, Stringify, IFTTT or any other 3rd party cloud service and integrate multiple Harmony hubs directly with Google Home.
Selecting Activities & Favorites
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”.
Please note, different to our old approach with the red Harmony Activity, we don’t want to create routines later on, so picking the right friendly names is super important here. Some “friendly names” are reserved for Google (e.g. “music”), but this is still not checked here.
Note, 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. Just repeat the steps 1-3 from the previous chapter and click on the Harmony icon to unlink the service from Google Home and repeat all steps, again. We agree this is not easy to remember and not very intuitive.
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 with Google Home (and with your Google Nest Hub), and specify friendly names as alternatives for voice commands.
On the final screen, you will see a list of sample commands like “Hey Google, turn on the TV!”
How to use our new Harmony Integration?
When you’ve successfully linked your accounts, Logitech used to send you an e-mail to your registered account at Harmony, with some voice command examples based on your configuration. Some would work, some not. You would also find the tip, that you are able to “sometimes” use short commands. Heh?
Before we dig into the voice commands, there is a concept we should be aware of (to understand the “sometimes”):
- Activity commands, like “Ok Google, turn on TV”, work always! Easy.
- Additional commands, like favorites and playback control, work
- always in long form (when you add, “… on my TV” or “on the TV” or “on TV” or just “TV” at the end) and
- yes, that’s cool: also in short form (without adding “… on my TV” at the end), but only if you have not switched the voice focus meanwhile to another device.
- Volume commands, now always require a long form (“TV” in the command). Not sure, why they gave up on this (it works with Alexa).
Pro-Tip: We should not expect that our Google Home / Assistant Apps accept the same voice commands like our Google Homes or Google Nest Hubs! Their vocabulary is quite different, based on the different features they support. For the Google Home / Assistant apps the long/short form nuances do not apply. You’ll always need the long form voice commands!
What’s a Voice Focus?
To be honest, we just made it up, to be able to explain the smart behavior of this integration. Any request to any device (Google Home / Hub / Chromecasts vs Harmony activities) switches the voice focus to the device, which will execute the request. From there we can use commands in their short form. Here are some examples:
- “Turn on TV” and then “Pause” turns the TV on and pauses your eg cable box (or whatever is mapped to the pause button in your Harmony activity)
- Now, if you say “Resume”, it will resume TV playback.
- “Play some music” and a subsequent “Pause” plays music and then pauses it on the Google Home device (or whichever default speaker you have set)
- If you say “Resume”, it will resume the music playback.
Now, how can we set the voice focus back to Harmony? Just turn your Harmony activity again on (though it’s already running) and you have the pause/resume executed through your Harmony.
Note, only the Google Home (Hub) device you have started the Harmony activity with, is taking part in this voice focus game. This voice focus does not time out (like after some minutes with Alexa).
These are easy. We can see the configured activities in our Google Home app and just say:
- “Hey Google, turn on/off (the) <activity-friendly-name>”
Google will come back by confirming “Ok, turning <activity-friendly-name> on/off!”.
Please note, Google will always name your activities with the first friendly name you have specified during linking.
To turn off any Harmony activity running (thanks to Mikell), we can say:
- “Hey Google, turn off Harmony”
Google, will come back with: “Ok, turning off <number of activities> things”.
Note, if you have multiple Harmony hubs, this command won’t work, you’ll need to explicitly turn off the running Harmony activity.
Bug-Note: Google returns currently: “Sorry, I am not sure which Harmony you’d like to turn off”, also for only one Hub. Note, you can use IFTTT as workaround (linked post shows a Philips Hue example) as it allows to turn off any activity! (Thanks Jon!)
Here we need to keep the voice focus in mind, which by now comes naturally. We can use the short form and omit the device name if we’ve already talked to the device, otherwise, we need the long form and specify the device name.
Favorite / Channel Commands
These are not so easy, as we won’t find a list of our favorites and their friendly names in the Google Home app. We need to memorize them (or write them down). However, if we have a Google Nest Hub, we will not only see our favorites but are also able to switch to them on the screen.
Now it depends on whether our activity is running, initially switched on with our Google Home, e.g. is the TV on, does Harmony have the voice focus? If yes, great, we have the following short forms to switch the channel:
- “Hey Google, play (channel) <favorite-friendly-name>”
- “Hey Google, turn on (channel) <favorite-friendly-name>”
- “Hey Google, go to (channel) <favorite-friendly-name>”
- “Hey Google, switch to (channel) <favorite-friendly-name>”
If our activity is not running, we need to add “… on TV” at the end of our voice command
- “Hey Google, play / turn on / go to / switch to (channel) <favorite-friendly-name> on (the/my) TV”
Please note, if you have a Chromecast in your setup, using the short form when a Harmony activity is not running, will most likely start YouTube playback on your Chromecast device and not turn your TV on and switch to the channel.
As Stuart suggests, you can create custom routines for your favorites, to shorten the commands to your liking and workaround that YouTube is launched on Chromecast (e.g. “Hey Google, switch to channel <favorite-friendly-name> on the TV” could be shortened to “Hey Google, <favorite-friendly-name>”). Please refer to the chapter “Custom Routines, again!” for workaround ideas!
Alternatively, if we are into channel numbers, we can say:
- “Hey Google, play / switch to channel <number> (on TV)”
Note, if Google comes back with “Sure, for that you can talk to Harmony. Does that sound good?”, the voice focus was not with Harmony and you forgot to append “… on my TV” at the end. If this happens too often, check out the routines chapter to customize the behavior.
Additionally, if our favorites are close to each other, we can navigate them by saying:
- “Hey Google, channel up/down (on TV)”
- “Hey Google, pause/resume (on TV)”
will pause/resume the playback.
To navigate within a movie we can say
- “Hey Google, (fast) rewind/forward (on TV)”
Note, this has changed with the recent fixes and always requires the long form!
To mute/unmute our Harmony activity, we can say
- “Hey Google, Mute/Unmute the TV”
To control the volume, we have the following commands:
- “Hey Google, TV volume up/down”
- “Hey Google, volume up/down on TV”
- “Hey Google, increase/decrease the volume on the TV”
Thanks to Mikell, following command works:
- “Hey Google, increase/decrease the volume by <amount> on TV”
In our setup, the increments are 0.5 dB. So if we say 10, it will change by 5 dB.
Volume Commands and Chromecast
To differentiate between Chromecast and Harmony Activity volume (thanks Francesco!), you need to either specify the Harmony Activity or the Chromecast Name (usually the room you map your Chromecast to with “TV” appended, e.g. “Couch TV”)
- Ok Google, volume up/down on Chromecast (“Chromecast”, in this example, is the Harmony Activity, which you can see and change in the Google Home app or during linking by setting friendly names) will control the volume, your Harmony Activity volume is mapped to (e.g. receiver).
- Ok Google, volume up/down on Couch TV (“Couch TV”, in this example, is the Chromecast name, which you can see and change in the Google Home app) will control the volume of your Chromecast.
Pro-Tip: Volume commands always switch the voice focus and might be confusing, if you refer to the wrong activity. Example: 1. Turn on TV; 2. Playstation Volume Up; 3. Switch to channel X; returns “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet!”
Google supports up to 6 voice profiles per Google Home device. With the voice match feature, Google is able to distinguish between different voices in your household. This supposedly improves “Hey/OK, Google” recognition and enables us to get personalized results and personalized media services like music and video.
To cut another potentially long story short:
If you’d like to receive personal results from your assistant (this includes Google Photos, Email, including flight reservations and bills, Google Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Memory aids, Shopping lists, Purchases, Recipe recommendations and last but definitely not least media recommendations like for music and video), you need to enable personal results.
Now that everybody, even guests, can access and influence your personal results with their voice, you need to enable voice match.
Last but not least, you can invite your family to your household (through “Add…”/”household member”) so that every household member:
- sees all smart home devices in their apps,
- can create their own individual routines which can combine many actions into one personalized voice command,
- can link their personal music and video service to improve personal recommendations.
How to integrate Multiple Harmony Hubs
There’s a trick with household members: Jason found that any invited family member can contribute with their smart home devices. We retested and yes, how cool is that!? Suddenly it seems we have broken the barrier of just one Hub supported on Google Home!
Here’s a step by step:
- Invite your household member from your own smartphone/account, the invitation will appear pending in the other accounts Google Home app settings
- On the household members device/account, accept the invitation and you can see the full household smart home setup shared, including the first Harmony Hub activities
- Add the Harmony Service on the household members smartphone/account (see “Linking the new, blue Harmony Service” above)
- When you get to the point where you can select the Harmony Hub, select the Harmony Hub, you’d like to add to your setup.
- On the household members device/account, map the second Hubs activities to a room in the shared home.
- After successful configuration, you should see the activities of all Hubs on all devices/accounts.
We are ready! Everybody can now voice control all Harmony Hubs and activities.
Custom Routines, again!
I know, we wanted to avoid them, but for the sake of short commands, let’s look into how we can override Google’s default behavior.
This approach can help you to redefine voice commands to make them work more reliably for you, in case you encounter problems. You can, for instance, create snappy commands for your favorites, which will work independently of voice focus or combine multiple smart home actions into one, like setting the right light scenes for your favorite movie.
To create a custom routine, tap on “Routines” on the Google Home app home screen, scroll down to “Manage Routines” and tap on the “+” (plus) on the bottom right.
Our own Favorite Command
- Enter e.g. “Discovery” in the “When I say …” and
- type in “Turn on TV” in the “The Google Assistant should …”.
- Add another action and type in “play discovery channel on TV”.
- Save the routine and give it a minute to synchronize through the cloud to your Google Home device.
- Hey Google, Discovery!
Note, Google will come back with “Ok, turning the TV on” followed by “Sure, switching to discovery channel on the TV”.
Pro Tip: Note, we have added the “turn on TV” action to switch the voice focus to Harmony, so we can use now the short commands pause, resume, rewind, forward, play <channel>. The channel command alone does not switch voice focus.
What did they say?
So you’re watching TV, your favorite actor mumbles or something or somebody distracts you and you go like “Ok Google, what did they say?”. Google rewinds a bit (on TV) and resumes playback. Sure, let’s do that …
Note, this routine depends a lot on your setup, in my case a single rewind on TV averages around skipping back 10 seconds, two rewinds average around 30 seconds, as multiple rewinds increase the rewind speed.
Google Home supports setting a second Google Assistant language. The Google Nest Hub supports English (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, India, Singapore), Dutch, Danish, French, German, Indian, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish (Spain), Swedish and Norwegian.
If you do not see the option (under Google Assistant / Settings / Assistant / Languages, you could try setting your smartphone region to English US and re-download the Google Home and the Google Assistant apps from the US stores.
This has the advantage, that you can access all US features/services and actions, and select two from the currently supported languages and varieties: Danish, Dutch, English (Australia, Canada, UK, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and US), French (France and Canada), German (Germany and Austria), Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Peru, USA) and Swedish.
We’ve tested in German and activity, channel and volume commands are working now!
Note, if any of your favorite channels are also available as YouTube channels, Google might still be confused and remind you, that it can only play videos on Chromecast enabled devices.
This is finally a robust integration which rarely surprises with unpredictable results. The main problems we had with the retired, red Harmony Action have been finally addressed. We can use now shorter, more natural commands and every family member can use the setup, even when using Voice Match.
The Google Nest Hub surprises with a functional visual interface for our Logitech Harmony playback, volume, and channel commands. It opens automatically whenever a Harmony command is recognized and invites us to control Harmony quickly and silently by touch.
Furthermore, the synchronization of Harmony’s running activities has improved. Google is now aware which activity is running, even if we turned on the TV with Alexa, used the remote control or the Logitech Harmony app.
And, remember the other bugs we had to deal with? All of them have been fixed!
“Play some music” no longer working The new integration was not usable on a Google Home Hub! Some short commands (like “Volume up/down”) were still sent to Harmony after turning an activity off (resulting in a “Sorry …” response). “Resume” appeared only to work with music. Some commands reset the voice focus (like sometimes a short “Rewind” which cannot be executed, switched us back to Google Home). To work around some of the inconsistencies (especially in a Chromecast setup) we had to create custom routines for our favorites and forward/rewind.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Please share your experience in the comment section below! I’ll keep updating this post with all our findings!
For a comparison to Alexa, please see: Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?