CNET Smart Home
Alexa and Logitech Harmony: Couch potato paradise?We tested out a voice-activated entertainment setup at the CNET Smart Apartment to see if Alexa can make for better binge-watching.
[MUSIC] I like bingeing as much as the next person, but wouldn't it be nice if you could launch all your smart home entertainment needs with a single voice command? Now you can do exactly that with the Logitech Harmony Alexa skill. So I was dying to try this out. So we brought the Logitech Harmony Hub here to the c|net smart department along with the Roku Streaming Stick and plenty of smart home gadgets. We've got Phillips Hue bulbs in the lamp, the LIFX bulb in the corner lamp there. My goal is to integrate all of it into a single movie watching mode. That I can launch with a single voice command. Here's what it looks like. Alexa, turn on watch Hulu. Okay. So you can see, the Roku jumps right to the Hulu input, the TV's on in the right place it needs Needs to be, and even the lights here go green, kind of to match the Hulu theme. I did this for every streaming service that we've got here, Hulu, and Amazon, Netflix, HBO Go, all with a single voice command. Now, as you can see, the end result is really cool, but there's Still a lot of pain points here. The Logitech app is really confusing. It's very powerful, it does a lot of cool things for all your entertainment gear. But the different settings and options you need to enable to get things working are kind of scattered about unintuitively. And you have to search to find stuff. It takes a lot of getting used to. There's a learning curve here. Not the most well-laid-out app. I also encountered a lot of pain points as I tried to activities and channels into Alexa. What this is doing is just tricking Alexa into thinking these activities and channels are just devices, so you tell her to turn them on or off You can also add what Logitech calls Friendly Names, these are alternative wording for your command. The problem is that a Logitech preset that you can't get rid of kinda take up all the good words, there's already Turn On HBO, Turn On Netflix, Turn On Your TV, those are already locked in, so if you wanna make a really coll HBO preset that has Purple lights or whatever you want, you can't do that with the built-in preset. You have to make your own. I don't like that. On top of that, the Logitech still can't do everything yet. You can't adjust the volume of your entertainment gear, and you can't fast forward or rewind either. So you're just stuck turning things on and off and switching inputs. All in all, I think this is a pretty compelling use of Alexa. I just wish that it wasn't so clunky to set up. I'm also waiting to see if we get additional Alexa skills for TV and AV gear in 2017, maybe an Alexa enabled TV set or deeper controls of Amazon Fire TV. All of that has me personally waiting before buying a Harmony Hub which is not an inexpensive purchase. That's it. I'm glad we've got it here in the CNet Smart department were we can keep playing with it and testing it out.