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Alexa group command

  • 19 October 2017
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I keep reading comments on the forum that go along the lines of “Do you want to Voice control Alexa for feature xxxx? Then switch to the controller, do the thing manually and then instruct Alexa to play in that room”. What exactly is the point of this? If I buy a voice assisted player that does something on top of my existing Play:1, then I want, at the very least, that is able to group rooms, play my library (not just Amazon’s catalogue). I think that Sonos are simply selling an unfinished product.
I keep reading comments on the forum that go along the lines of “Do you want to Voice control Alexa for feature xxxx? Then switch to the controller, do the thing manually and then instruct Alexa to play in that room”. What exactly is the point of this? If I buy a voice assisted player that does something on top of my existing Play:1, then I want, at the very least, that is able to group rooms, play my library (not just Amazon’s catalogue). I think that Sonos are simply selling an unfinished product.

Yes, the Alexa skill for Sonos' 3rd party multi-room speakers is indeed a work in progress and is waiting for broader support for features such as grouping which are coming in an SDK next year. This was made clear by the "Beta" status of the skill. If you do not wish to participate in a beta program for the Alexa skill for Sonos speakers, I suggest you disable the skill.
d.avitabile wrote:
I keep reading comments on the forum that go along the lines of “Do you want to Voice control Alexa for feature xxxx? Then switch to the controller, do the thing manually and then instruct Alexa to play in that room”. What exactly is the point of this? If I buy a voice assisted player that does something on top of my existing Play:1, then I want, at the very least, that is able to group rooms, play my library (not just Amazon’s catalogue). I think that Sonos are simply selling an unfinished product.

Which came first? Been using and loving sonos for 4-5 years. Now that Amazon and Google have a new device that is a game changer, give people an opportunity to adjust and adapt their strategy to these new devices. I can use about 50% of my curent Sonos features and functions with the dot. I can still start or mute the music faster with alexa than getting the phone out and muting. Likewise, the features and sound quality are great on Sonos. I do not have a smart tv and alexa can not control the tv, does it make the tv an unfinished product? I believe in using what is available and if there are better options, i will review them and may switch. Have not found one yet and people are amazed when i show them what sonos can do. Sound quality of Amazon or Google is no where near that of sonos.
Such is the state of partnerships between voice control services and 3rd party multi-room speakers at this point in time. In addition to being in its infancy, with important API and SDK functions still in the pipeline, there are also technical and financial goals that are not shared by each vendor in the partnership, and in some cases, may just be at odds with each other. Things must be worked out on all levels, so one must be patient, and your approach Doctor B, is the one I have adopted as well.
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I think a lot of people forget how limited the Echo was when it was first released a little over 2.5 years ago. It wasn't capable of doing much of anything, and even those things it could do it often did quite poorly. It has certainly come a long way since, although a lot of features people here take for granted are practically brand new. Look at everything Alexa learned to do in 2017 -- while the Sonos One was still in development:

https://venturebeat.com/2017/12/29/everything-amazons-alexa-learned-to-do-in-2017/

The point is, the Echo family of devices are all "unfinished products," as is the Sonos One, and they always will be. But in the little more than two months since the Sonos One was released, I've seen a number of features and skills implemented, improvements in responsiveness, etc. I have little doubt that we're going to see a lot more improvement in 2018. Yes, the process can occasionally be frustrating or painful for early adopters, and I understand why some have been disappointed or chosen to return their units. I certainly have complaints of my own with the One, issues I'm tracking and features I'm hoping will be supported soon, but overall I'm okay with the progress the product has made. .
I'm shocked that Sonos do not support something so basic, nothing to do with Alexa functionally.

The fact that you can't create more than one group to play music is AWFUL.

Sonos you should be ashamed!
Hi All, I have a solution and it works well. It takes some setting up but its worth it.

The added benefit is that you can prefix defferent volumes for each speak whn it becomes a group. This is great for mivies etc.

Download the Yonomi app (free) and set up a command list that plays 5 seconds of silence on all of teh speakers that you want to group. It will then group all the speakers together after the silence finishes. Its important to add the command ‘set repeat to off’ and ‘set shuffle to off’ for each speaker , after the silence (this prevents Sonos from moving to the next song in your playlist library).

FYI, you can find short recordings of silence on line with just a google search. You can also add it to Sonos as a ‘favourite’ by uploading the silence to soundcloud and synching your Sonos and sound cloud account.
The you simply tell Alexa “turn on ‘group lounge’”. It will then run the yonomi command that will group your lounge speakers together. After that, just ask Alexa to play whatever you want and it will be grouped to the speakers you want.

My explanation was a little rushed so please as ask any questions as needed.
Tell Alexa to play in any one of the grouped rooms and the entire group will play. For instance:

Group of Living Room + Kitchen + Dining Room.

Alexa, play smooth jazz in Living Room.

Smooth jazz will play in Living Room + Kitchen + Dining Room.

This works for me. I have an echo dot where you tell Alexa to play "something" + a name of a room which is already been grouped in Sonos

For Sonos one (if the speaker is already part of the group), you simply say Alexa play "something" (without specifying which room) and it should play.
How can this functionality be so broken and marketed to the public already? Sonos is designed as a multi room audio system yet that does not work with this new API? SMH. :@

It is Amazon that doesn't support the inclusion of 3rd party speakers in Alexa groups.


Sorry, you are mistaken, the fault lies with the Sonos API. The Sonos API does not facilitate presenting a group of speakers as a target for Alexa like every single other smart home capable system. Essentially what needs to happen is you need to be able to group your speakers into logical groups and assign it a name, that name needs to show up in Alexa as a target device.


Yep. I used to be a huge fan and evangelist of Sonos, but for their simple neglect of this feature, I know can't wait for Amazon to crush Sonos. I had previously hoped that Sonos would prevail in the face of a copycat behemoth who once pretended to play nice. But now that Sonos has intentionally disregarded polite requests from loyal customers for necessary features, I am torally comfortable with their inevitable demise (ie GoPro and DJI) :)

Sonos will be the new GoPro because they dont actually innovate.
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Hi all

For those of you that have a Harmony Hub remote control there is now a solution for this. :)

I've been experimenting with my Harmony Hub activities and have discovered a way to create named groups of Sonos players and to request a named group to become active via voice control - the key is the Harmony Hub.

Here are the steps I've tested:
1/ Open the Harmony Hub App>Harmony Setup;
2/ Add your Sonos players as devices;
2/ Next create an Activity - Named 'Group Sonos';
3/ Add your required Devices to the Activity;
4/ Disable the Harmony skill in the Alexa App and then Re-Enable. During this process you have the ability to define 'Friendly Names' - there doesn't seem to be a way of doing this any other way. I created 'Group Sonos' and 'Sonos Everywhere' as friendly names;
5/ Save the Activity in the Harmony Hub App;
6/ Ask 'Alexa, Discover devices';

Now the command 'Alexa, Turn on Group Sonos' or 'Alexa, Turn on Sonos Everywhere' groups all of my Sonos speakers and displays the new grouping in the Sonos App. You just need to repeat for any other named Sonos groups you require and you can switch between them by turning on the required Activity.
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I now see automatic ungrouping through Alexa. If I create a group with all my Sonos speakers in the Sonos App, then say "Alexa, play music in Kitchen", it ungoups all the Sonos speakers (in the Sonos App) and plays music in the Kitchen only.
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Ron, I tried this and it didn't decouple the room. I had three group together, requested a song - played in all three rooms. Then stopped music and requested song in Kitchen - it played in all three rooms. Any thoughts?
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Ron, I tried this and it didn't decouple the room. I had three group together, requested a song - played in all three rooms. Then stopped music and requested song in Kitchen - it played in all three rooms. Any thoughts?

Check out this thread. I think things are still changing, but improvements seem to be happening.
https://en.community.sonos.com/amazon-alexa-and-sonos-229102/about-ducking-time-6806444
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Ron, I tried this and it didn't decouple the room. I had three group together, requested a song - played in all three rooms. Then stopped music and requested song in Kitchen - it played in all three rooms. Any thoughts?

The behavior of the Sonos Grouping of Rooms is now driven by the Preferred Speaker within the Alexa App Group when music is started via Voice Control.

Sorry for the long post but I've tried to explain some process, as well as some of the terminology:

Alexa Group Set-up

Ques 1 – What is your Controlling Alexa Device?

1.1 – From your list of Alexa devices, both Sonos and others, choose the Controlling Device;
1.2 – Create an Alexa Group, named after the room that the Controlling Device is located in and select the chosen Alexa device. (If you select a Sonos device as the controlling device, this device can only be included as the Controlling Device in one Alexa Group);

Ques 2 – What Sonos devices do you want to reduce their volume on when Alexa is triggered (Ducking), so that the command can be heard by Alexa more easily?

2.1 – From your list of Sonos Rooms/Devices choose those that you want to duck when an Alexa Command is being given;
2.2 – Include all of these Sonos devices by adding them to the Alexa Group.

Ques 3 - What Sonos ‘Rooms’ do you want the requested music to be output on for Multi-Room Music?

3.1 – Within the Alexa Group set-up, select ‘Preferred Speakers’ and select all of the Sonos Rooms that you want to be grouped together for Multi-Room music.
3.2 – Save the Group

Please repeat for all other rooms which contain an Alexa Device that you want to control Sonos players.

Notes:

1 - It is still advisable to create Groups, Devices and Routines with unique names.
2 – It is also possible to create an ’Uncontrolled Alexa Group’. In this case an Alexa Group is created but with no Controlling Alexa Device (Section 1) or Grouped Rooms (Section 2) defined. These must be referenced with the Group name included within the command – See Scenario 2

Scenarios

Controlling Device: Echo Dot in Kitchen (Alexa Device name: Kitchen Echo Dot)
Grouped Sonos devices to be ducked: Kitchen Playbar + two Play:1’s as surrounds (Alexa Device Name: Kitchen Sonos), and Dining Room Stereo pair of Play:1’s (Alexa Device Name: Diner Sonos)
Preferred Speakers: All Sonos Rooms
Group Name: Kitchen

Scenario 1 – Auto Group Sonos Players

Start state: Only Kitchen Sonos playing music

Command to Kitchen Echo Dot: ‘Alexa, Play Soft Jazz’

Result:
1. Current music to Kitchen Sonos stops;
2. All Sonos Rooms group together and shown as such in the Sonos App;
3. Soft Jazz output to all Sonos Rooms

Command to Kitchen Echo Dot: ‘Alexa, Play Piano Chill Playlist’

Result:
1. Kitchen Sonos & Diner Sonos volume reduced on the trigger of hearing ‘Alexa…..’
2. All Sonos Rooms remain grouped;
3. Piano Chill Playlist is output to all Sonos Rooms

Scenario 2 – Play Music to a subset of Sonos Speakers from any Alexa Device

Controlling Device: N/A
Grouped Sonos devices to be ducked: N/A
Preferred Speakers: All Sonos Rooms Downstairs
Group Name: Downstairs

Start State: No music playing

Command: ‘Alexa, Play Soft Jazz on Downstairs’

Result:
1. All downstairs Sonos Rooms group together and shown as such in the Sonos App;
2. Soft Jazz output to all Downstairs Sonos Rooms.

Commands

Ques 1 – How do I play music to a single room?
Command – ‘Alexa, Play Soft Jazz on [Sonos Room Name]’
Ques 2 – How do I play music to my standard multi-room group of Sonos Players?
Command – ‘Alexa, Play Soft Jazz’
Ques 3 – How do I stop music being output to a single room (e.g. to answer the phone) but continue to play music in the other rooms?
Command – ‘Alexa, Mute’

This explanation is still in draft form, so please let me know if you don't understand anything or you think I haven't covered something.
@UKMedia that was a massively helpful post, thanks. One peculiarity I've noticed - if I say Alexa, play radio 4 (or any other radio), it plays on the controlling device (echo dot in my case) and not the preferred Sonos speakers. If I say Alexa, play Radio 4 in the [group name] then it uses the preferred speakers. Meanwhile the preferred speakers work fine if I say Alexa, play [song name].
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@UKMedia that was a massively helpful post, thanks. One peculiarity I've noticed - if I say Alexa, play radio 4 (or any other radio), it plays on the controlling device (echo dot in my case) and not the preferred Sonos speakers. If I say Alexa, play Radio 4 in the [group name] then it uses the preferred speakers. Meanwhile the preferred speakers work fine if I say Alexa, play [song name].

Yes, I've noticed that too, I think it's because it defaults to the BBC skill. If you say 'Alexa, Play Radio 4 from TuneIn' it should output to the Preferred Speaker.
I’ve found a couple of glitches in the way in which Alexa controls Sonos. I don’t mean just general problems. I know that there are features that have yet to be enabled. I mean glitches.. things that work if you do them one way .. but not another.. but with no logic. For example .. if the kitchen and office speaker are grouped and nothing is playing .. and you ask Alexa to play Jamiroqui in kitchen .. it will just play in kitchen. If music is already playing in this group and you male the same request then the group does not split and the new music plays in both rooms. There is another glitch ... which relates to what is open on the Sonos app at the time an Alexa request is made.. ill come back to that..
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I’ve found a couple of glitches in the way in which Alexa controls Sonos. I don’t mean just general problems. I know that there are features that have yet to be enabled. I mean glitches.. things that work if you do them one way .. but not another.. but with no logic. For example .. if the kitchen and office speaker are grouped and nothing is playing .. and you ask Alexa to play Jamiroqui in kitchen .. it will just play in kitchen. If music is already playing in this group and you male the same request then the group does not split and the new music plays in both rooms. There is another glitch ... which relates to what is open on the Sonos app at the time an Alexa request is made.. ill come back to that..

My understanding is that this is working as designed. There is a level of complexity that I'm still discovering between the same Use Case and different start states. Players grouped with non-preferred players with music playing, No grouped players and No music playing, all have a different outcome but are consistent.