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.
UPDATE 2018-05-04: Google and Logitech are 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.
Update 2018-08-07: Actually I was waiting for the update above, a Logitech Home Control Service for Google Assistant, which was announced on 2018-05-03, and should save us from implementing custom routines for snappy voice commands for Harmony. But since this release seems to take forever and the “shortcuts” feature has already been replaced with so called “routines” – thanks to Jeremy and drkfiber for the feedback – I have updated the sections below. In case you’re revisiting this page, updates are in green. You can subscribe below to automatically receive notifications about future updates of this post.
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?
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:
- Open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the compass icon 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.
- 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”.
- From here you have two options to link Harmony, pick the one which works for you:
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 compass icon 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
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 custom routines later on, as described in this post, you can neglect the friendly names, as we will define them in our custom routines.
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.
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 Routines
Unfortunately, there is no easier way to shorten the commands, than to create Google Assistant
shortcuts “routines” for each and every Harmony command. Again, we have two options to open routines, pick the one which works for you: 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” “Routines”, 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 Routines?
Google Routines give us the option to combine multiple actions and/or media commands into customized snappy voice commands and schedules, which we can define ourselves. Sounds a bit complicated, but this super powerful feature is definitely worth a closer examination.
Initially only 6 ready made Routines were released (along with the shortcuts feature remaining active):
- Good Morning
- Leaving home
- I’m home
- Commuting to work
- Commuting home
Those ready made routines offer:
- preconfigured voice commands e.g. “Good Morning”, “Tell me about my day” or “I’m up” for the Good Morning routine (Note, though we can add our own alternatives for these commands, we can’t delete the preconfigured voice-commands, so best to avoid using those in our own custom routines later on)
- a selection of what Google Assistant should do, together with an option to add our own actions (what we would usually say to make Google do what we want, e.g. “ask Harmony to turn off TV” in the Bedtime routine)
- and then the option to play media: music, news, radio, podcasts or audio books (e.g. “sleep sounds” in the Bedtime routine)
Later on, Custom Routines replaced the shortcuts feature. We will use those, to create shorter voice commands for Harmony. Here we can define:
- “When I say …”: the voice commands, which trigger our custom routine
- “The Google Assistant should …”: the action which Google shall perform. Note, if you
look for inspiration, check out the “popular actions” section which contains a broad selection of
- Home Control
- Plan your day
- Device Control
- Custom Responses
- “And then play …”: again, the media section with music, news, radio, podcasts, audio books or sleep sounds.
The latest option released end of July 2018 are scheduled routines. Under “Set a time and day (optional)” in the custom routine section, we can define when a routine should run by specifying:
- the time
- the weekdays
- the Google Home unit which starts the routine and
- whether we would like to receive notifications on our phone when the routine starts.
Please note, that this feature – though quite powerful – hangs during time setup on iOS.
Sample Custom Routines
Here are some sample custom routines – 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 custom routines to your liking. However, expect that some of your favorite routine voice commands (“When I say …”) need some tweaking before they work.
- Start by tapping the blue “+” button bottom right of the Routines screen.
- Add the first entry from the samples below, e.g. “Turn off TV” in the “When I say …” section, by tapping add commands and then “+”
- Add the second entry from the samples below, e.g. “Ask Harmony to turn off” by tapping “Add Action”.
- Save you new custom routine
I have thoroughly tested following custom routines and they should 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 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 TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn on TV”
- 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” – “Ask Harmony to fast 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”
Wow, a lot of work to get rid of the “ask Harmony to …”. I recommend to implement only your most important Harmony routines. The announced update, which has not been released yet, should save us from creating custom routines for Harmony.
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.
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 custom routines. However, we need to create a routine 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 routines are currently 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 routines manually. Since July 2017 we know that it can be done, but more on that in the post about Logitech Harmony and Alexa.
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. You can also subscribe to automatically receive notifications about updates.