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?
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 (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.
- 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 (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
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.
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:
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.
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”
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.
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.