Philips Hue Assignment 1 :: Interfaces

Screenshots of interface prototypes for Philips Hue lighting assignment.  Jingwen and I are creating an interface for light control in a restaurant.  The restaurant will be able to set constraints and presets, and the tables will be able to set their own lighting levels within those boundaries.  This could include raising the light level briefly to read the menu (especially useful in dark dinner situations), or changing the light on mood for things like dates, family dinners or business gatherings.   We will be connecting this to the actual Hue lights soon for a working prototype.

 

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Product Review :: Philips Hue lights :: Week 2

Week 2 with the Philips Hue lights.  Unfortunately I was out of town for a couple days so my week trial was cut a little short.  One thing in particular to update from my previous post was figuring out alarms with the Lux lights in my room.  You just need to set up a scene ahead of time (which, for the Lux lights is just turning the lights on) and set the alarm to that scene you set up.  It seems a little convoluted to have to do that to just set an alarm to turn a Lux light on.  I’m also not totally sure how handy the light alarms are.  I’ve used them for naps or for waking up on mornings that I have to get up before sunrise, in conjunction with an audible alarm on my phone.  So far, the audible alarm is what wakes me up, and I just seem to wake up with the lights on.  The fade in wasn’t helping.  Maybe that’s better than waking up in the dark, but I’m not completely convinced yet.  In hindsight, I should have tried setting the lights earlier to see if that would wake me up, but I know myself and I think I’m a bit too heavy of a sleeper for that.   Anyway.

 

Using the app as a remote control has still been incredibly handy, enough to make me want to build my own once I give the lights back.  Mostly for the convenience of not having to install a dimmer, or get out of bed to use the light switch.  I’ve looked into some 3rd party apps, but they appear to mostly be pre-programmed flashing light animations.  Not too ideal for sitting around the apartment doing homework, but I would definitely try them if we happened to be having a party.  I’m looking forward to getting into the API this week to work with the lighting controller I’m in the process of making with Jingwen.

 

Unfortunately I’ll need to bring the lights back tomorrow so the class can all use the lights and hub, so I won’t get the full three-week trial.  But overall, my short trial was very positive.  The packaging and out-of-box experience was nice, setup and installation was really easy and it’s been very convenient to use.  One main thing to think about going forward for is whether it makes sense to buy these.  My situation is a little different than an average consumer being in school with fewer spare finances, but still, they are a little expensive.  I would check into the energy efficiency of the bulbs more before making the investment, because right now I’d mostly be paying for a light remote in bed, which seems questionable for a couple hundred dollars.  The Hue project everyone is working on should help to get some more ideas flowing of ways I could potentially use these in the future.  But I guess for now, the best way to verify I enjoyed having the lights is that I’m sad to pack them up.

Product Review :: Philips Hue lights :: Week 1

As part of the Connected Devices class, I’m testing out the Philip’s Hue light system for a few weeks, and will be posting several reviews here.  First things first: Unpacking.

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I got the basic starter kit, containing 3 Hue bulbs and the hub, or bridge as Philips calls it.  I also got 2 Lux bulbs.  The Hue bulbs can vary in brightness and also color, while the Lux bulbs are just variable brightness.

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The unpacking experience was nice.  Much different than say a new iPhone, which feels pretty luxurious.  But I was really pleased at the Hue packaging.  All the packaging was cardboard and a little paper, with some very brief informational text printed on the back of the “welcome” page inside the box.  No plastic at all.  That is in stark contrast to iPhone packaging that features lots of individually wrapped plastic pieces.  So all in all, great packaging.  Maybe some feel that an expensive tech product should have really fancy packaging, but I thought Philips did it right.

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Now onto setup.  The installation really couldn’t have been easier.  Plug the bridge into the router, and plug the power cable into an outlet.  Needing to plug into the router is a potential constraint I suppose, but it is not a problem for me.  I want to test the bulbs out a little further from the Bridge to check the range.  After plugging in, you download the Hue app, pair the bridge and you’re ready.

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I placed one Hue bulb in this floor lamp, and one in a hanging star fixture, both in the living room.  I have the 2 Lux bulbs in my bedroom.  I’m still trying to figure out where to place the last Hue bulb I have.

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Colored light bulbs!

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Star light in action

For the most part, the app is easy and straightforward to use.  Once you screw in the lightbulbs, they become available under the “Lights” menu, where you can turn them on, off or vary the brightness.  The 3 included Hue bulbs are waiting to be activated, and I had no trouble adding the two Lux bulbs into the Lights panel.  Setting alarms is also available, but I’ve been having some difficulties with it.  So far, I haven’t figured out how to set alarms for the Lux lights in my room – it appears to only be working with the Hue bulbs, which in my case isn’t doing me any good.  It also seems that you can only set them to turn on a Scene (more on that below), not just turn them straight on.  I might be missing something, so I have more time to figure it out.  The real test will be waking up early for class on Wednesday when it’s typically dark out when I get up.  The alarm would be really helpful then.

 

The “Scenes” feature is interesting – it let’s you assign a color palette to the 3 Hue bulbs based off the color palette of a photograph.  You can use your own or samples they provide, or mix a new palette.  I haven’t quite gotten too much use out of this.  It seems like that would be more fun to have during parties, especially given the 3rd party apps that I see floating around that let you coordinate animations and light sequences.

 

So far, I have really enjoyed the bulbs.  The Lux bulbs in my room have been really useful.  I have them in a ceiling light fixture, whose switch is across the room from my bed.  The combination of just a bright on or off feature, and the switch location has been annoying to me for a while now, so this is really a perfect solution.  Being able to gradually dim the lights from bed as you’re getting ready to sleep is a great simple pleasure.  I still need to get the alarm dialed in how I want though.  The current price point is too high for me to consider buying the unit at the moment ($200 for the bridge and 3 bulbs pack, $30 for each Lux bulb), but I’m already impressed and intrigued.  Now that the lights are up and running, I’m looking forward into checking out some of the 3rd party apps and the API.

 

Connected Devices :: Week 1

 

Week 1 prototype from Connected Devices.  Assignment: Design a simple navigation device capable of conveying eight directional commands, with materials costing under $20.  I mounted a small box containing an Arduino micro, 9v battery, servo motor and laser pointer.  The device can be controlled wirelessly from my computer through a bluetooth classic connection.

The video demonstrates some of the commands: for example, when the servo rotates to the right and blinks, that indicates an upcoming righthand turn.  When it has a steady light on the right side, that indicates turn right now.  Steady light in the middle means go forward, and quick blinking sequence in the middle means you have arrived at your destination.

The helmet mounting combined with laser demonstrates a hands-free prototype for simple navigation in potentially dark locations.  The commands could also be translated to morse code for more precise directions.  It could also just be thought of as a device that turns you into your cat, as you chase the laser around.

 

Bill of Materials:

Arduino Micro

Micro Servo motor

Adafruit laser pointer

Perf board, solder, wires

Laser cut 3/16″ birch

Small dowel

Construction helmet from junk shelf

 

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