Alexa and the Amazon Echo make for a great voice-driven personal-assistant and hardware platform combo but even the sensitive microphones in the Echo have their limitations. Extend the reach of your Echo with the companion Voice Remote for whole-house functionality.
Why Do I Want To Do This?
If you live in a small apartment this tutorial isn’t really for you as a centrally placed Echo unit will likely meet all your microphone-coverage needs. If you live in a bigger apartment or house, however, you’ve likely found the limitations of the Echo. While it’s great at picking up your voice from an adjoining room, sensitive microphones or not, it’s difficult to issue commands to Alexa when you’re in the basement, upstairs, or elsewhere in your home.
For Echo power-users that are constantly calling on Alexa to make adjustments to their smart home hardware, change music, set to-do list items, and so on it’s frustrating to be outside the range of the Echo’s hearing. To solve such issues you can pair Amazon’s official Voice Remote for Amazon Echo ($29.99) with your Echo unit and enjoy wireless and instantaneous interaction with your Echo anywhere in your home.
Further, and of interest to those who enjoy the power of the Alexa system but are still a bit wary about the always-on microphone system, you can use the remote as an on-demand microphone system even if the main Echo unit has the microphone system turned off.
In addition to the remote itself, the Voice Remote package comes with a base, seen in the photo above. The base is magnetic and attaches both to the remote and to any metal surface. If you want to mount the remote holder to a non-magnetic surface the package also include a reusable adhesive strip.
Note: Due to brisk Echo sales (and accompanying Voice Remote sales) the Voice Remote for Amazon Echo appears to have gone out of stock shortly before the publication of this article.
Pairing the Remote to Your Echo
Pairing the remote is a pretty straight forward affair with really only a minor potential for a hiccup or two. To do so unpack the remote, insert the AAA batteries, and set it to the side for a moment. Then open up the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone. (If you’re a brand new Echo owner and need a hand getting the Echo itself all set up, definitely check out our guide to setting up the Echo here.)
Within the Amazon Echo smartphone app, tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner. Select “Settings” from the slide out menu, near the bottom.
Within the “Settings” menu, select the device you wish to pair the remote with. Such as, seen above, “Jason’s Echo”.
Under rare circumstance you may see, instead of “Pair device remote”, “Forget device remote”. Only one remote can be paired with each Amazon Echo so if you purchased your Echo second hand it’s always possible it was previous paired with a remote; just select “Forget device remote” before selecting “Pair device remote”.
Both the application, as seen above, and your Echo (via auditory instructions) will prompt you to make sure the batteries are in your remote and then instruct you to press and hold the large center Play/Pause button for 5 seconds.
Release the button and both the application and Echo should announce to you, within the promised 40 seconds, that the pairing process is complete.
Using the Remote
There are two sides to the Echo remote: voice commands and physical media controls. You can adjust your Echo’s volume with the +/- buttons, skip forward and backward in your playlists with the left/right arrow keys, and you can play and pause your media with the large central play button.
The voice commands work just as they do with the Echo unit with one minor variation: there’s no need to use a watch word because pressing the microphone icon on the remote functions as the watch word signal. Thus if you would normally say, “Alexa, play some Christmas music” you’d simply say, “Play some Christmas music” after pressing the microphone button.
Practical uses of the Voice Remote aside the feature we’ve had the most fun with is using Alexa’s “Simon Says” feature remotely. When you use the feature in the same room as the Echo unit it’s nothing more than a minor novelty, but if you use the Voice Remote the possibilities for pranking people (especially your kids) is nearly infinite if you can keep the feature secret from them. For example, you can tell your kids to take out the trash, meander over to your home office, pick up the remote and issue the command “Simon Says ‘Nicole, your father asked you to take out the trash'” and we guarantee they’ll think Alexa is keeping tabs on them.
Have a pressing tech question about voice assistants, home automation tech, or other modern marvels of life in the 21st century? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer them.