You may remember in my previous post 'Controlling Philips Hue with Cortana', that we had to rely on a third party app 'Huetro' to control our Hue lights using Cortana. Huetro effectively extended the voice control capabilities of Cortana with additional commands for our lights. This was OK, but there were a few challenges.
Primarily, the main issue at the time was that I had to be ultra careful how I phrased my voice commands. Get it wrong, and it just didn't work. Thankfully though, things have moved on, and Microsoft have now added smart home integration directly into Cortana (they call it 'Connected Home'). This actually arrived last year, however I missed it. This might be because the integration is only available in the United States (at the time of writing), and I'm based on the other side of the pond in the UK. Fear not though, a simple tweak allows you to enable this feature outside the US.
By simply popping into the Windows 10 settings app, going to the 'Cortana' section, and then changing language to United States, you can enable the 'Connected Home' feature. Don't worry, this won't change your PC language anywhere but Cortana, so nothing else will be impacted by this small change.
To enable the Connected Home feature, open Cortana, then open the 'Notebook' and go into the 'Connected Home' section. Toggle the feature on (at this point you might be asked to sign in to your Microsoft Account), and the list of available smart home device integrations will appear.
Choose Philips Hue, and then 'Connect'. You'll now be asked to sign in to your Philips Hue account. Philips Hue accounts are an optional, but useful thing to have with any Hue setup. It allows the Hue app to function even when you're away from Home. It operates via the cloud, and Microsoft appear to be leveraging this in partnership with Philips. This is instead of connnecting to your bridge directly over your home network.
Cortana will then discover your rooms, scenes and lights - and you're good to go!
You can issue commands to Cortana in a variety of different ways. You can specify which light, room or scene you want to control, and Cortana will figure it out. You don't need to be ultra specific about how you phrase your command. This is voice control as it should be; as natural and flexible as possible. You should get the impression the system 'understands' you - and this now seems to be the case with the Cortana Connected Home feature.
Of course, in the fullness of time, the Connected Home feature should arrive in other parts of the world, meaning you won't have to change language to enjoy this capability.
Smart Home control is one of the more basic capabilities that any voice assistant should have, and it's good to see that now in Cortana. It will be interesting to see if the number of other integrations continues to grow. I'll be keeping an eye on this.