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Alexa won't actually stream to a zone

  • 16 October 2017
  • 6 replies
  • 263 views

I have the sonos skill installed and it sees all of my zones. The issue I'm having is that I can ask alexa to "play music in the family room" and it will reply that it's starting a stream in the family room but nothing actually starts playing and the sonos app shows that there's nothing playing. I can then ask alexa to "play music in the kitchen" and it will first say "amazon music is already streaming in a different zone. Would you like to stream to the kitchen instead?" I can reply "yes" and she will reportedly start a stream in the kitchen but again nothing plays. I can then manually start playing something in the kitchen and I can get alexa to raise & lower the volume but if you ask her "what's playing in the kitchen?" she reports the wrong artist, presumably because she's looking at the "Amazon Music" stream that isn't actually playing anywhere.

Adding further to the mystery... If I drop a zone from the Alexa app and then rediscover it, I can get it to actually start a stream on that zone. It will play for about 15 minutes then all of the sudden it will stop playing and it goes back to the state above.

My running theory as to what's happening is that I also have a whole bunch of Philips Hue lights paired with Alexa and they have the same group names as my sonos zone names. I think this is confusing the sonos skill. I tried adding each sonos player to its respective group within the Alexa app but it just removes it from the group on save.

I really don't want to have to name my sonos zones something different then my lighting groups so hoping you guys can reproduce the issue and patch your skill.
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Best answer by jgatie 16 October 2017, 22:02

At this time of the beta, you do need to name your Sonos devices differently. Personally, I name my lights as "living room lights" or "kitchen lights" and my Sonos as just "living room" or "kitchen". The beta is still evolving and whether this functionality is going to change, we will see.
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6 replies

At this time of the beta, you do need to name your Sonos devices differently. Personally, I name my lights as "living room lights" or "kitchen lights" and my Sonos as just "living room" or "kitchen". The beta is still evolving and whether this functionality is going to change, we will see.
My impulse is that if you're unwilling to separate the names of the lights and the speakers into unique strings, you're going to continue to have this issue, which I also believe lies with Amazon, not Sonos. When I first set up my speakers in the Sonos skill, I also had them named the same as either my Hue lights, or the Echo Dots. From my testing, it wasn't enough to have them named "Kitchen Sonos" and "Kitchen Dot", for instance, as the Amazon device seemed to key off of the first word in the phrase, and often ignored the second part of the phrase. And not all the time, too, which was a little frustrating. I ended up renaming things so that they didn't share the same first syllables, and things started to work as you would expect. I figured out in my case, I really didn't care about the names of the Dots I have scattered around, so I named them something a little unusual, since I just talk to them, and never direct anything to them. I think my bedroom dot is called "Sleep", my kitchen Echo is called "Food", and the computer room is called "Den". That left me with unique names for the Sonos devices, and for the Hue lights, so that there would be no confusion in the Amazon Cloud as to which device was being called on to do what.

I suppose it might be possible for there to be a popup in Amazon's app when it finds duplicate names, but I suspect this is a new area for Amazon, and the sudden influx of new homes with multiple devices is probably a learning experience. It would be interesting to have data on how many Hue devices per home, along with number of users, versus number of Sonos users and number of devices.

I happen to consider this growing pains of a fairly new area of growth, and it's going to require a little patience by many of us.

I hope you're able to either resolve your own issue, or have the patience to wait for one of the two companies to figure out how to resolve it in software.
At this time of the beta, you do need to name your Sonos devices differently. Personally, I name my lights as "living room lights" or "kitchen lights" and my Sonos as just "living room" or "kitchen". The beta is still evolving and whether this functionality is going to change, we will see.

That's a good naming suggestion. Long term I'd love to just be able to add each zone into their appropriate group but for now I'd just like it to work. Thanks for the suggestion
I named them something a little unusual, since I just talk to them, and never direct anything to them. I think my bedroom dot is called "Sleep", my kitchen Echo is called "Food", and the computer room is called "Den". That left me with unique names for the Sonos devices, and for the Hue lights, so that there would be no confusion in the Amazon Cloud as to which device was being called on to do what.

That's what I didn't want to have to do, give them unique names, so I liked the suggestion to just add "lights" to the end of the Hue Groups. My wife uses Alexa extensively to turn on & off lights around the house so I didn't want to disrupt her work flow around that.

As a disclaimer I'm a developer on the Microsoft Bot Framework and drive the development of our BotBuilder Node SDK so I'm very familiar with the difficulties in this space. Using voice to disambiguate between two things named the same is challenging at best. I assumed that the duplicate names was the source of the issue but I don't see any reason why the Sonos Skill can't filter to just devices it knows about. The fact things like volume & transport controls still work as expected is just further evidence in my mind that this is just a bug in the skill. I'm not super familiar with Alexas Smart Device SDK though so it could be a limitation of the SDK.
Certainly won't argue with you, sounds like you have much more qualifications than I do. And I suspect the real issue here is the Amazon cloud's ability to do the differentiation, rather than Sonos' skill. But I think you may have a valid point, assuming Amazon allows you to restrict the "vision" of which devices can be seen within a skill. Beyond my pay grade, though 🙂
Ok I simply can't get this to work :(

I renamed my current groups so that they have different names from my sonos zones and it still wouldn't actually start a stream in a zone. I then re-booted everything and not luck. Finally I disabled the sonos skill and went back through the whole setup process. I got it to start in the kitchen one time but couldn't get it start in any other zones. Now it won't even start in the kitchen.

It simply doesn't work...