SOLVED: How To Programatically Trigger Alexa to Wake/Pay Attention?

SOLUTION:
It is possible to get Alexa on an Echo device to respond to voice input from an ‘Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon Echo’ while that Echo device’s microphone is disabled via the on-board mic-disable button. Therefore, at least one client of mine will be placing an order for an Echo and an Alexa Remote in the very near future. :slight_smile:

Thanks to @Nezmo for helping me out…
ANSWERED: If You Use an Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon Echo, PLEASE Read This :-)


Previous Content…

UPDATE (and a request) :
I just heard from someone else that it IS possible to get Alexa on an Echo device to respond to voice input from an ‘Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon Echo’ while that Echo device’s microphone is disabled via the on-board mic-disable button.

REQUEST:
So… PLEASE…for people with one of these remotes paired to one of your Echo devices, would you please test this, and then come back here to let me know if this is true?

p.s. I may create a separate thread just to ask people to test this for me, but I’ll wait to see how much response I get on this request here first.


ORIGINAL POST:
First, I already use Echo Speaks quite a bit, and have a lot of automations in webCoRE for all kinds of stuff. So, I’m coming at this with that in mind.

I’d like to have a Piston in webCoRE send a command to Alexa to wake up and listen to me so that I can speak a command to Alexa in a context where I normally have Alexa ‘muted’ (i.e. microphone disabled).

TL;DR:
Is there a command (like in Echo Speaks) to ‘un-mute’ Alexa?


No. For security and privacy, the microphone mute on Alexa devices is a physical disconnect that supposedly cannot be overridden by software.

References here: https://iot.stackexchange.com/questions/2382/is-the-amazon-echo-mic-mute-a-hardware-switch/2385#2385

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The OP says they physically disabled the microphone in the use case. That requires then going over to that echo device and physically re-enabling it. You can’t do it just by voice.

You could do it by adding a “robot finger” like switchbot to push the button for you but you would have to have another echo device that you could speak the command to or use the echo app on a tablet or phone. Not sure how practical that would be.

(As someone who is quadriparetic, I’m very familiar with wanting totally hands-free device operation. :wink: )

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Aww gotcha.

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I also want to mention that “mute“ is a voice command with echo that does not turn off the listening microphone, it just turns off the sound on the speaker.

So for that one, you just give a voice command like “echo, set volume three“ or “echo, continue” and the mute will be undone.

The physical button on an echo device is called a “microphone disable” button. (Not “mute.“) it disables the always listening microphone so that it no longer hear sound in the room, including the wake word. That one requires physically pressing the button a second time in order to re-enable the microphone.

So “mute” Is a voice command and can be undone by voice command. “Disable” requires physically pushing a button on the device and can only be undone by pushing that button a second time.

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LOL Thanks, guys. :slight_smile:

@rontalley
I included a very short, generic version of my use case in the OP…

“…in a context where I normally have Alexa ‘muted’ (i.e. microphone disabled).”

To expand on that… the context, in particular, is a client of mine who is a potential Alexa user who likes the idea of being able to have the ‘cool factor’ of getting voice responses to voice commands, but doesn’t like the idea of it being there, listening to everything going on all the time.

They could have ‘the best of both worlds’ if I could figure out a way of configuring things so that Alexa would sit there, idle, with mics disabled most of the time, and the user would click a smart button or something (i.e. I already know how to get actions in SmartThings passed to Alexa) that would enable the mics AND ‘wake’ Alexa at the same time, so that they could then speak a command and get a response from Alexa.

I knew from the start that this is an outlier of a situation, and most likely not possible, but that’s what I’m all about…testing, examining, exploring, investigating to see if I can find a way to make things work in a way that meets the need of the user, even if it seems strange or unlikely at first.


@JDRoberts
Also, outside of the Alexa/Echo context, I do know the difference between muting speakers to prevent sound output, and disabling microphones to prevent sound intake. :wink:

The only reason I used the ‘mute’ terminology here was because that’s the word they used here in this article (pasted below), and I just went with it, because I had no idea that they were not using the correct terminology as presented within the Amazon universe (i.e. sometimes, even in some technical contexts, the word ‘mute’ is indeed used to describe the act of disabling microphones).


POSSIBLE SOLUTION:
Amazon’s Alexa Voice Remote for Echo/Echo Dot?

Do you guys know if it would be possible to achieve the basics of what I’m imagining with one of these?

i.e. Would the remote effectively override the ‘disabled microphone state’ on the Echo device, or would having the Echo device’s mics disabled prevent the remote from working properly?

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As already discussed above, there is no way to re enable a microphone on an echo device without physically pressing the button on the device. That appears to be an intentional part of the privacy safeguards for the device. The remote doesn’t do it either. (It can mute, but not disable.)

So the option, as I mentioned, is to add a “robot finger“ which can push that button for you. This is definitely possible, I use a number of them in my own home since I am quadriparetic and have limited use of my hands, but tends to be more complicated and more money than most people want to spend for this type of use case.

2019 Switchbot Review ( robot button pusher), integration through IFTTT

And in this particular case, then in order to have voice control of the robot finger you would either need to use your phone to get to the app that controls the robot or have yet another voice device that you could talk to.

This might be useful for someone in a situation like mine where they need a totally hands-free option and they wanted to be able to disable the microphone on a particular device, or were willing to use the phone to reenable it. But I’m not sure anyone else would be interested in this particular approach.

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@JDRoberts

Ya, that makes sense. So, even though pressing the physical button on the remote would be acting through hardware, it would still use a software route (well, or at least a protocol route…which, I guess is more like software than hardware) to get that action over to the Echo device.

Now, the idea of a robot finger definitely makes sense,. I didnt check the li k yet, but I at least like the concept.

Oh ya…I’m not looking for a ‘hands free’ solution, but very specifically the opposite… i.e. I want the interaction to begin with a physical touch, and then move on from there to voice interaction.

I guess, unless they’re willing to go the route of using some kind of robot finger, they will just need to walk over and touch the mic button on the Echo device. lol


Another possibility…
Since we already have a tear-down of the device, would it be possible to gain access to the microphone enable/disable button circuitry, connect wires to that, and act on it from outside?

If so, then perhaps I could attach some sort of smart mechanism that would send the same signal as the button being pushed. (?)

I suppose, but I’d be really reluctant to do any physical modifications on an echo device because of all the acoustic engineering that goes into the farfield voice recognition. Even breaching the case could mess that up. :disappointed_relieved:

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Haha, right… it’s not like I’m going to find a nice, little, perfectly placed panel to open and get to the mic. (Thinking about the android character named Data on Star Trek: TNG) lol
That would be too easy.

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UPDATE (and a request):
I just heard from someone else that it IS possible to get Alexa on an Echo device to respond to voice input from an ‘Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon Echo’ while that Echo device’s microphone is disabled via the on-board mic-disable button.

REQUEST:
So… PLEASE…for people with one of these remotes paired to one of your Echo devices, would you please test this, and then come back here to let me know if this is true?

p.s. I may create a separate thread just to ask people to test this for me, but I’ll wait to see how much response I get on this request here first.

ANSWERED:
Thanks to @Nezmo for testing this for me, and letting me know it works. :slight_smile:

1 Like

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