Alexa Tip

amazon-echo-apps-image-from-amazondotcomAlexa Tip: a reader asks…

I bought an Amazon Echo and put it in my family room open to the kitchen. I can call on Alexa from either room and she’s good about responding. I also have a Firestick on my Family Room TV. Can the two Alexa’s talk to each other? I’d like to get the Echo to turn on the TV, change channels on my cable box and switch to the Firestick by voice command.

No, or rather I should say “Not Yet”. They can both be connected to the same Amazon Prime account, but they can’t exchange info. If you want to use voice to control your Firestick, you’ll have to use the included voice remote. Your Amazon Echo can’t pass your commands to it. I’m hoping that sooner or later, Amazon will create a pipeline between the two devices so you can get what you’re asking for. It may take awhile for that to happen, but I’m also hopeful that it won’t require an upgrade in the hardware, but just a software upgrade.

You ask if Alexa can turn on your TV and change channels on your cable box – that is possible, but you’ll need a pricy Logitech Harmony Elite universal remote control system (about $300). The Harmony Elite could be easily be trained to do everything your remotes do, change channels, adjust the TV volume, even switch input sources (to get to your Firestick for example). Even home theatre equipment – if it came with a remote control, the Harmony Elite can take over those controls. And yes, the Harmony Elite can control the Amazon Firestick, although you won’t have voice control unless you use the Firestick’s voice remote.


Image of senior couple being helped by a tech coach, from ShutterstockAmazon’s Alexa can do an awful lot of cool tasks for you, but there are limitations. Alexa can only do what the engineers and programmers create, and so far Amazon has looked at the Echo and the Firestick as two separate Alexa-powered entities. That’s where Logitech swooped in and provided the in-between control capabilities. Since you can control the Harmony Elite remote using the Echo’s Alexa, you can get everything that you want – but you have a pretty complicated setup. You’ll have to setup each piece of equipment and learn the correct voice commands to get what you want. Logitech makes this a bit easier (no programming!) with their visual Harmony Elite setup tool, but I think most consumers will leave that job up to a professional home theatre technician.

Part of the problem is that you are dealing with two different companies (Logitech and Amazon), and multiple devices, each with their own programmer-designed capabilities. Companies tend to want you to only use their products, so they don’t design them to work as well with other brands’ products as they do with their own. You see this everywhere, such as wanting to use Google services on an Apple iPhone – you can make it work, but it can be a bit of a Gordian knot to untie.


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