Continuing on the theme of ‘controlling everything with my voice’, I’ve successfully integrated yet another appliance into my setup – this time my TV!
I’ve owned a Sony Bravia 2015 TV for around 18 months now, and while the interface does slow to a crawl at times, overall I’m very impressed with the Android TV integration, and have gone as far as to switch from using a dedicated Kodi machine to running a Plex server and using the native Plex Android TV App. However, at the time of writing this, there isn’t a way of controlling low-level functions of the TV (power, volume etc) from Google Home, you can only use the Chromecast integration. While I’ll agree it’s not entirely practical to navigate media entries on the TV with your voice, I find myself wanting to switch the TV on/off from another room, or pause playback with my voice rather than scrambling for a remote when my phone rings.
Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that the Bravia TV offers any direct API for issuing commands over the network, so instead I looked for a device that could emulate the remote control. After a bit of searching I came across the Broadlink RM Mini 3 (Amazon link) – I was initially a bit sceptical given the low price point and very foreign documentation, however I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the setup was, although the Android application leaves a lot to be desired. Next step was to find a way of issuing commands to the Broadlink device over my network. While there is a handy Python library, and even an extension for the RM Mini 3 capable of issuing IR commands, neither of these would allow commands to be sent over a HTTP connection.
Given the easiest method of integrating with the Google Assistant/Google Home is through their IFTTT channel, this HTTP interface was going to save a lot of effort, so I set about creating one myself! The resulting code is a fork of the BlackBeanControl repository mentioned above, but with an additional Python script using web.py to expose an interface for sending commands over a HTTP request. I’ve then placed this script behind my home Apache proxy (sufficiently secured to prevent the entire internet being able to turn my TV on and off), and used the IFTTT Webhook channel to make the appropriate requests when triggered.
I’m somehow becoming even lazier than I ever imagined – now I don’t even have to reach for the remote to continue my binge-watching!