Game Room Voice Control w/ Amazon Echo

One of the (minor) annoyances in Arcade and Pinball collecting is that over the last 40 years the amusement industry hasn't really build up a great deal of standards around common things, simple things: like the power switch.  

On Tron, the power switch is on the Top / Right.   On Donkey Kong, the power switch is on back- bottom right.   On many pinball machines the power switch is located on the bottom right, near the front of the game though annoyingly Revenge from Mars put the toggle switch half-way down the middle of the cabinet where I have to crawl underneath to power it on.    More recently, Stern Pinball puts the power switch under the lip of the head of the machine.

(GAH!)  - First world problems, I know.  

For Christmas, Dina bought me an Amazon Echo, a couple of Amazon Dots and some wifi enabled switches.  Having attended an Amazon Developer's conference just last month and knowing this is the direction I'd like to go, I've been planning for this for quite awhile. 

This video shows a pretty stock setup, just triggering devices by grouping and playing music and I'm pretty darned happy with the result.  I am playing with some custom Alexa skills to do a bit more, though...  

More on that later :)

A couple of things of note.. The 2nd generation Amazon Dot is fully functional. You can have a Dot only and still get most the features you want.   I used a combination of iHome plugs (like them for their size) and Belkin WeMo wall-switches connected to switched outlets.   You could potentially save a little money by going with a hub-based solution like Z-Wave, Zigbee but I found the savings versus convenience was sort of minimal, at least for my uses.

The WeMo software seems to be more mature.  iHome is integrated with HomeKit and installs pretty quickly but I did have a few snags getting it married up to the Alexa app.   It is almost as if you end up with two iHome accounts, one with a userID, associated by the app - and one with an email as the username as part of the OAuth handshake when you enable the skill.   The secret sauce, in my case - was to set up Device sharing in the iHome application, to basically share the {MyUserNameAccount} on the app devices with the {MyEmailAccount} on their portal.  Once I did this, Alexa was able to discover all of the iHome devices without a hitch.

The WeMo plugs work really well but they are big, generally blocking part of the outlet or at least preventing to WeMo plugs from going into one outlet.  The iHome plugs, however - have the added benefit of being the size of a standard plug, so you could have two iHome plugs in out outlet, if you wanted to.   WeMo has the better wall-switch offering, however.    

Being split across the two ecosystems is annoying if you plan to use their apps to control things but Alexa is the glue for the end result - since you can group devices regardless of manufacturer.

Echo also supports integration with Nest and IFTT, though my IFTT recipes for triggering the lights on Nest motion sense - seem to be spotty, at best.

All in all, being able to enter the room and saying things like "Alexa, turn on the Pinball Machines only" or "Alexa, turn on Mario Kart" or "Alexa, turn on the classic arcades" - is very-very nice.   Now, if I can just keep Miles from saying "Alexa, turn off the pinball machines" - while I'm in the middle of a game... :)