When the buzz about voice control started a few years ago, I was skeptical to say the least.
It seemed like a fun way to show off to your friends and when I first got mine in early 2017, it looked like all the development bugs and early problems had been smoothed out.
But … since I’m an audio/video engineer, already used to integrating multiple systems, it just didn’t seem like it was very practical.
It surely wasn’t going to take the place of my custom-programmable universal remote! I have a Universal Remote Control (URC) Total Control home automation system in my home. It was touted as a way to listen to music, to watch TV, and more. Huh? With it’s tiny little speakers, how was Alexa going to make my home sound system any better?
Besides, at the time, devices that were controllable were very limited, and getting those devices to work together was nearly impossible. I had always assumed that sometime in the future we’d be controlling everything with our voice. But that future was not as soon as I had anticipated.
We bought the Amazon Echo just to play with it and see what it was all about.
For a while it was only a glorified electronic shopping list: “Alexa, add eggs,” and so on. Other than that, it just kind of sat there, occasionally picking something up from the TV audio and saying she didn’t understand what we were asking. It was startling. And seemed like a waste of money.
Voice Control – How I Made Alexa Make My Home Sound System Better
And then, a few months later, Universal Remote Control (URC) announced the release of their Amazon Alexa driver. Drivers are what allow the URC system to communicate with third-party devices and preform some pretty awesome things when programmed correctly.
I was actually pretty excited about this, despite my initial thoughts about wasting money on the Echo.
I uploaded the driver, programmed some keywords for Alexa to recognize, and we were off and running.
“Alexa, Turn on DirecTV,” I said.
“OK,” she replies.
The TV turns on.
Audio turns on.
My universal remote kicks over to its DirecTV page.
Everything was working!
Alexa was actually making my home sound system better.
I assumed this would just be a cool factor that I’d use to show friends, but in reality, I use it every day.
No longer do I have to pick up my universal remote and press the DirecTV button. I just tell Alexa to do it for me while I’m at my bar deciding between Laphroaig and Glenmoragie before sitting down to watch the latest episode of Billions.
To take the voice control a step further I decided to add a few Z-Wave lights to the house. We had installed LEDs on the patio (they just plug into a wall outlet). Turning them on and off required us to reach down and either plug the lights in or press the little button on the cord that acted as a power switch. Once they were one, they looked great under the patio cover, but they sure were inconvenient to operate and so we didn’t always use them.
Then I installed a Z-Wave controllable outlet in place of the existing outlet and suddenly, “Alexa, turn on patio lights” became my switch. I didn’t have to touch a thing.
Now, Alexa not only made my home sound system sound better, it make everything look better too.
Update: I’ve recently added several Sonos speakers to my home audio system, plus set up a complete expansion of a home audio system for a client.
What is Voice Control All About?
Voice control is all about convenience.
If you’re looking to add a cool factor, convenience factor, or just reduce the number of remotes, tools, and outlets, give me a call at (559) 432-8600. I’ll get your home theater installation set up with your own Universal Remote, wi-fi outlets, and Amazon Echo so that you, too, can make everything look and sound better using just your voice!