Logitech updates their Alexa Smart Home Skill for Harmony remotes with more natural commands

Logitech has announced that their Alexa Smart Home Skill, which allows control of their Harmony remotes and hubs, now supports more natural language commands using the new entertainment control capabilities that were just made available to developers by Amazon. These updates now remove the need to have two different Alexa skills for Harmony devices and make controlling devices much more intuitive.

When Logitech first released an Alexa skill, they were constrained by the limited options available at the time. This made it necessary to say “Alexa, ask Harmony…” before every command. Later, when Amazon introduced specialty smart home Alexa skills, Logitech released a second Alexa skill that made it possible to more naturally turn devices on and off by saying “Alexa, turn off the TV.”

The problem was that smart home Alexa skills could only control the power state of a device, so Logitech needed to maintain both skills simultaneously. The first skill contained all the available capabilities, but the second skill, which did not require saying “ask Harmony” before every command, allowed for more natural language control of certain commands.

Amazon has now expanded the options available to developers of smart home Alexa skills, so it’s now possible to control more than just the power state of a device without having to say “Alexa, ask [skill name]…” before every command. Logitech has updated their Harmony smart home skill, so it’s now possible to use all of the following commands:

  • Alexa, turn on/off the TV.
  • Alexa, turn on/off [A/V equipment].
  • Alexa, turn on/off [activity].
  • Alexa, pause/play/stop/resume/rewind/fast forward my TV.
  • Alexa, change channel to 29.
  • Alexa, increase/decrease/turn up/turn down/mute the volume.

Very minimal commands, like “Alexa, pause,” can also be used to control Harmony devices, but you must have first used Alexa to turn on the device. So if you say “Alexa, turn on the TV” then you can later say “Alexa, turn up the volume” and your Alexa device will know you are referring to the TV and not the Alexa device’s own volume. If you want, you can always add “…on my TV.” to ensure the Alexa device knows the command you just gave should be executed through Harmony.

  1. Dave says:

    Will this allow for the changing of inputs (e.g. HDMI 1, 2, etc.) using voice commands as well? Also, how will this work when all of the devices are routed to an A/V receiver prior to going to the HDMI input on the TV? And finally, how will it be possible to hear Alexa’s responses when an Echo Dot is connected to an A/V receiver and the receiver is currently on a different input than the Echo Dot?

    • AFTVnews says:

      Will this allow for the changing of inputs (e.g. HDMI 1, 2, etc.) using voice commands as well?

      It doesn’t support changing inputs by default (i.e., “Alexa, change input to HDMI 1”), but you can create a custom activity for each input where all it does is change the input. That would let you say “Alexa, turn on HDMI 1” for example. It’s smart enough to know your equipment is already on, so all it would do is change inputs.

      Also, how will this work when all of the devices are routed to an A/V receiver prior to going to the HDMI input on the TV?

      You incorporate the A/V receiver when you set it up. So if, for example, watching TV for you involves: turning the TV on, setting the TV input, turning on the receiver, setting the receiver input, turning on a set-top box, etc.., you would just configure it all for your “TV” activity and it would all be executed when you say “Alexa, turn on the TV.”

      And finally, how will it be possible to hear Alexa’s responses when an Echo Dot is connected to an A/V receiver and the receiver is currently on a different input than the Echo Dot?

      This can’t really be resolved. If something is connected to the Echo Dot 3.5mm aux port, the internal speaker is muted and there is no way to change that. The only solution would be to use a Bluetooth adapter for your A/V receiver and connect the Echo Dot to the receiver via Bluetooth instead of the 3.5mm aux. This way, if you know your A/V receiver is off or on the wrong input, you can say “Alexa, disconnect Bluetooth” to switch to the internal speaker on the Dot. Then you’d say “Alexa, connect Bluetooth” when you want to switch back to the A/V receiver. It’s far from ideal, but it’s the only real solution to control weather Alexa is heard through the internal speaker or another device. If you have a Harmony, the other option is to create an activity for the Dot, so you could always say “Alexa, turn on the Dot” and your equipment would switch to the inputs that let you hear Alexa. Of course, you won’t hear Alexa’s response to the initial command that switches to the Dot, but you really don’t need to hear that because all it says is “OK.”

      • PJ says:

        “This can’t really be resolved.”

        It can, you just need to be creative. The solution is only about $25 (or even less if you have an extra pair of old computer speakers around).

        Start with one of these: https://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Speaker-Headphone-Audio-Splitter/dp/B000067RC4/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_23_bs_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=ACFGM0MY2BGRGE547VFK

        Put one output into a set of these: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Powered-Computer-Speakers-A150/dp/B00GHY5JAO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1500049888&sr=8-3&keywords=computer+speakers+3.5

        Then use the other output to got to your receiver’s 3.5mm port (can go shorter, depending on where your echo is located in relation to your sound system): https://www.amazon.com/iMBAPrice-25-Feet-Nickel-Plated-Extension/dp/B008R5J51U/ref=sr_1_3?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1500049797&sr=1-3&keywords=3.5+extension+cord

        Keeps the sound quality of 3.5mm direct into speaker when it’s on, but allows you to receive Echo responses through second set of speakers when it’s powered down. I’ve used this since the Dot was first release and works like a charm

        • gdroid666 says:

          it would be much better if the developers of the smart home API would just be able to make an option so that you can tell it when a command is given to change and input source on the receiver to one that is not routed for audio from the 3.5mm jack that it will just turn the dot’s internal speaker back on, now i am not sure how the 3.5mm jack in the dot works exactly it may have a physical switch like the onld 3.5mm jacks where pushing in the male connector moves the pin inside the female part and switches it off physically
          if amazon was really smart they will have had made it so that audio switching like switching on or off audio to the 3.5mm jack can be done by voice just like switching on or of bluetooth
          if not then the bluetooth solution as was suggested could be made to work with the smart home API so that instead of having to manually tell it to switch bluetooth on or off it could be programmed through smart home options or the skill to switch the audio automatically ,an obvious one would be to automatically turn on internal speaker whenever any HDMI input is selected

          i hope they did not use an old style 3.5mm connector inside where the act of plugging in the male phono cable presses on the pin to switch off the internal speaker so that it would be physically impossible for them to ad audio routing by voice through an update

          i have a solution to that though but it involves a small hardmod

          i have an RM pro and use the RM pro taskr plugin bridge app to use it with alexa ,it has RF learning ,you buy cheap RF relays on ebay and aliexpress for about $4 for a set both relay and remote
          it could be opened up and you could mod the 3.5mm connector so that the relay COM and NO pins go to the switch contacts inside the connector so you could use a voice command to operate the relay to switch the audio out from internal speaker to 3.5mm and back again

  2. Pandit says:

    How will it work if you have two harmony remotes for two tvs in different rooms?

    • AFTVnews says:

      I don’t think there is a solution for that yet. Each Alexa device would need to use a different Amazon account (and possibly Harmony account) so you know which one controls which equipment.

    • Travis says:

      Use IFTTT for the other room. This is how I have my theater setup which is on a different Hub.

    • Klaus says:

      I have the same question. I have 3 dots on my home theater, my kitchen and my bedroom, each having their own hub and sonos and TV / projector.

    • gdroid666 says:

      exactly , right now i use 2 different methods to control my living room and bedroom TV’s , the living room TV is smart and has wifi so i just use the anymote app running on an always on android device acting as a bridge to control it through wifi (works with no anymote IR device)
      hopefully anymote will incorporate the new API so i don’t have to use the added syntax of “alexa tell anymote to” but then this would create a problem for me because i use an RM pro plus the RM taskr plugin app to control
      my bedroom TV which has no wifi ,the RM pro taskr plugin app is a bridge and it gets recognized in the alexa smart home as a wemo basically ,it just has on or off commands
      each device or macro you set in the rm taskr plugin bridge app only has an on or off command, so in the bedroom i say alexa tv on , in the living room i say “alexa tell anymote to turn on my TV” , if anymote decides to update their app with the new API then i will want to use the new version of the app but then it will conflict with controlling my bedroom TV unless i rename one or both of the TV’s to bedroom TV or living room TV or rename both
      but that will add extra syntax to at least one room

      It would be nice if they added a way to program it in smart home to
      make say the bedroom echo dot know you mean the bedroom TV
      and living room echo dot control only the living room TV
      but also be able to assign a name so in case i am in another room speaking to another echo dot i can say “alexa turn off bedroom TV” if i am in the living room say , it would be nice to set it so that the living room echo dot will turn on the living room TV if speak into the living room dot and say “tv on” , It should by default know i mean that TV unless i specify otherwise like if i say alexa turn off the bedroom TV to the living room dot this seems like it would something that would be really easy to implement
      maybe have a pull down menu under each smart home command that has check boxes for each echo device on the account with the heading “works on these devices” above them , then you just tick off the boxes you want each smart home command to work on,and have them all ticked on by default

  3. Itzme says:

    While I was listening to my News Flash I had Alexa turn on my TV. So I lost control of the Echo / News. How do I regain control of the Echo to pause or skip the News Flash? I was eventually successful by saying News Flash, but that stared everything overall. There needs to be a simpler way.

    Overall, I’m loving this new functionality.

  4. Simon says:

    Will this come to the UK or is this for you guys in the States only ?

  5. Itzme says:

    Has anyone found any FF tips for quickly skipping past commercials? “Ask harmony to Skip Forward ” used to give my DIRECTV receiver a 30 second skip. now it just FFs at x1 speed until I tell it to Stop or Play. It’d be great to Skip Forward x Minutes.

    • TJ says:

      I’ve found if I say “Alexa turn on Commerical skip”. The entire sequence recorded is run instead of just one. Hope this helps. I’ve never answered a question-hope it’s in the right place and in order.

      • Steven says:

        I’m having some odd inconsistent results with that command. Alexa keeps trying to play my last activity or occasionally I get a 30 second skip. You did answe in the right place and I thank you!

  6. Llyod says:

    I think it’s great that I can now easily control my TV with Alexa, but how do I control my Echo’s volume by voice now?

    I like to set an alarm on my Echo, then say “Alexa, volume 8”
    and the reply now is “this device doesn’t support that”

    …and yes my TV is in the off state.

    • Itzme says:

      That’s the question of the day.. How do we bring voice control BACK to the Echo. One work-around, have Alexa start an Echo Skill, like Pandora. Then you can tell Alexa to change volume, pause, stop, etc.

  7. Ujn Hunter says:

    Do the old commands still work? i.e. “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn up the volume by 4”. Because having to re-learn how to do all these voice commands a third time… would be pretty annoying.

    • Itzme says:

      The old way does still work. I just tried. But it’s much easier to just “Alexa, make it louder” or “Alexa, turn up the volume by 4”

  8. William Hughes says:

    I ask Echo to turn off entertainment center, it then says ok but does not turn it off. This just started about three weeks ago. It worked flawlessly before that time. I updated new skill and did not fix the problem. I don’t know what is going on. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

  9. AFTVNoob says:

    USA only! We only get the red skill, not the blue one.

    Logitech said the UK was going to get the blue skill Q1 this year. Laughable!

  10. Gareth Price says:

    When I were a kid we used to have to get up off our backsides, cross the room, and turn a clickety click switch to change channel and adjust a smaller knob beneath it marked Vol…. and then usually have to thump the side of the set to stop the vertical roll of the black and white picture!

    My how times have changed lol

  11. harmony sucks says:

    unsurprisingly the reviews of the skill are not good. The harmony hub wasn’t good either.

  12. David says:

    Yep I wasted my money on the Harmony Home Hub and was expecting the blue skill to be available at some point. No sign and no interest from Logitech, what a useless company. I would return it but its out of time now.

    Opportunity for someone to create a nice little unit to take this input and output IR, WiFi etc. Throw in Wake on Lan and im sure it will be a winner.

    The Broadlink RM Pro looks good but needs a bridge app to be running on android, but their support did say they were working on a native skill. Was very chinglish though so maybe not. Hope they are since their kit looks good.

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