Can I get a hell yes, people? In news I’ve been waiting for since the Amazon Echo first arrived in my home in December, the voice controlled, internet connected speaker has added support for some of my connected devices. If I ask Alexa (the name that triggers the Amazon Echo) to turn on my Living Room Front Left light, which is a Hue BR 30 light, it turns on almost instantly. It’s very exciting.
Although astute observers will notice that there’s a slight problem. I can only turn on one light at a time, and my orders are based on the rather awkward naming convention I used in the official Hue app. This is because I can’t for the life of me figure out how to group my four Hue lights in my living room into a single room inside the official Hue app. You also can’t trigger scenes, just turn on apps.
The other limitation so far are the supported devices. So far Amazon is supporting, the Hue A19 bulbs (traditional bulbs), the Lux white bulbs), the BR30 (downlights), the Bloom and Light strips. On the WeMo side, the Echo only lets you command the Switch (the outlet), the Insight Switch (outlet, plus energy reads) and the LightSwitch, which means I can also power my living room lamp. It’s not the access to the Sonos that I’m so eager for, but Amazon is pushing the Echo really quickly with new features being added rapidly. It has added support for Pandora, MLB and MLS info.
But, it’s a start, and it’s super easy to set up. It took me less than a minute. I said, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and then the Echo told me to go press the button on my Hue bridge, and 20 seconds later it told me it found 6 devices on the network. Then I started ordering the Echo to turn on various lights and turn them off. The Hue lights turned on and off without a glitch, but my WeMo light seemed to get stuck in the on position and Alexa didn’t even offer an “okay or an “I didn’t catch that” response to my command.
Alexa seemed to be able to turn on my Hue lights but not change the color. My Amazon Echo apps says that I can use the voice control to dim the lights, but Alexa just made a sad noise when I asked, and the lights didn’t dim. All in all, this is exciting for me, but clearly needs work on both the Hue side and the Amazon side to be really useful. I need to be able to create a group of lights to control via voice and would love to get a bit more feedback when things don’t work. So far the Echo app isn’t showing those commands to me, so I’m not sure what Echo is hearing or trying to do and failing at.