Voice control your digital photo frame with Amazon Echo and Home Assistant

By March 5, 2019 March 24, 2019 DIY Instructions, Home Assistant

"Alexa" and "Ok, Google" are prob­a­bly one of the most often mut­tered words in many house­holds these days. We have the Ama­zon Dot at home, and I want­ed to use it to voice con­trol our dig­i­tal pho­to frame.

Luck­i­ly Home Assis­tant, the Home Automa­tion soft­ware has a ser­vice called Nabu Casa which eas­i­ly con­nects to Ama­zon and Google voice assis­tants.

In this arti­cle, I will describe how to turn your dig­i­tal frame on and off using your voice and give a fla­vor for what's pos­si­ble.

How Star Trek created Alexa

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, Cap­tain James T. Kirk start­ed talk­ing to his star­ship com­put­er. The year was 1966 and ever since peo­ple have been fan­ta­siz­ing about con­vers­ing with their com­put­ers, cars and kitchen appli­ances.

Speech tech­nol­o­gy has proven a tough nut to crack, but in recent years lots of progress has been made with the intro­duc­tion of Apple Siri, Ama­zon Alexa, and Google Assis­tant to just name the most pop­u­lar ones.

Espe­cial­ly Ama­zon and Google have made their tech­nol­o­gy avail­able for inte­gra­tion by many man­u­fac­tur­ers of smart devices lead­ing to huge unit sales num­bers and ubiq­ui­ty in house­holds around the world.

Home Assistant, Nabu Casa, and a limited cloud

The wide­ly pop­u­lar home automa­tion soft­ware Home Assis­tant is based on the premise that any data would be stored local­ly as opposed to send­ing all data to the cloud.

How­ev­er, to inte­grate voice assis­tants, even Home Assis­tant has to send some data to Ama­zon or Google servers.

So the devel­op­er team came up with a sep­a­rate ser­vice that they bap­tized "Nabu Casa". Nabu Casa pro­vides an open source con­nec­tion to Ama­zon Alexa, and Google Assis­tant and the team is work­ing to build an end-to-end encrypt­ed remote inter­face.

In con­trast to the free Home Assis­tant soft­ware, Nabu Casa car­ries a charge of US$5 per month, but this rev­enue serves to finance the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of Home Assis­tant. I like to think of it as a dona­tion to sup­port the great work that is being done here.

Instal­la­tion is done in the Con­fig­u­ra­tion tab under "Home Assis­tant Cloud" and needs no explain­ing.

I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave

Here is how you can make Dave, sor­ry, Alexa turn your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame on and off.

It prob­a­bly works very sim­i­lar­ly for Google Home, but since we live in an Alexa world, I will give you the instruc­tions for the Ama­zon Echo.

If you haven't set up the on/off con­trol of your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame in Home Assis­tant, please read my arti­cle "Con­trol your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame with Home Assistent's wifi pres­ence detec­tion and MQTT."

If you have fol­lowed the steps in the arti­cle, you will have a switch called "Dig­i­tal Pic­ture Frame" (or what­ev­er you called it) in Home Assis­tant.

Set up a Nabu Casa account; there is a free 30 days test­ing peri­od so that you can try this out even with­out a paid account.

Assum­ing that you have at least one Ama­zon Echo device at home, you will have the Ama­zon Alexa app installed on your iOS or Android device.

Go to "Switch­es" and check if you can find your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame. (Click on the images to enlarge).

Tap it. In my exam­ple, "Bilder­rah­men" is the Ger­man name for "Pic­ture Frame".

Click on "Cre­ate a rou­tine."Click on the "+" sign in the upper right cor­ner.

Click on "When this hap­pens."

Click on "Voice."

Com­plete the com­mand like, e.g., "Alexa, turn the frame on"

Click on "Add action"

Click on "Smart Home"

Click on "Con­trol device."

Select your frame device.

Spec­i­fy if your com­mand is to turn the dig­i­tal pic­ture frame on or off.

Con­tin­ue, check and save.

It may take up to a minute until Alexa has stored the com­mand.

Test first by click­ing on the "play" sym­bol on your iPhone.

If the rou­tine works, try the voice com­mand.

Suc­cess!

You can have as many voice com­mand vari­a­tions as you like. Just cre­ate a new rou­tine with a dif­fer­ent com­mand and select your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame device.

This is just a straight­for­ward exam­ple of how you can con­nect your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame, Home Assis­tant and Ama­zon Alexa. In fact, the only lim­it to what you can do is your imag­i­na­tion. With the right mod­i­fi­ca­tions, you could tell your dig­i­tal pho­to frame to show only images of a cer­tain year or spe­cif­ic per­sons. Or tell your frame to con­tin­ue dis­play­ing the cur­rent image.

I am curi­ous myself to what can be done and what actu­al­ly makes sense so I will inves­ti­gate this fur­ther and post about it here.