hue & you

I wrote this for a friend, but if you squint your eyes, everything is generally applicable.

Apps

You only need the official Hue app for Android/iOS. There are third party ones which provide functionality like light toggles in your notification tray but I never made much use of them.

Suggested Light Placement

I’d place the two light bars behind the TV. They come with some rudimentary mounting hardware that you can use to mount them to your TV, which is fine, but I don’t use that because I like the flexibility of moving them later. Dealer’s choice here.

The 4 color bulbs I would probably place in the living room to compliment the play bars, allowing you to set up some more nuanced scenes. More information on scenes here. Depending on how you use the bedroom, 2 color lights in there and 2 in the living room would not be a bad move.

Setup

Plug-in / screw in all of the lights, set up the bridge next to your router, and use the app to add each light, giving it a name and a room. Make the bulb names actionable (i.e., easy to say to Google if you want to toggle or tweak on the fly )

NOTE: If you have rooms in Google Home, you will save yourself a lot of headache if you make the room names the same in Hue and Google Home. Google Home will automatically import in the devices to the correct room if the room names are the same across Hue & Home.

Zones & Rooms

Rooms are a top-level mapping of lights to locations in your house that exists across other services and integrations, like Google Home. Keep this simple.

Zones are a relatively new feature that are certified dank. They are an abstraction that allows you to assign lights to zones that are either within or across rooms. This can be really powerful depending on your usage. For example, I have 4 can lights in my kitchen, in a 2x2 layout. When watching movies, the front two kitchen can lights can actually cause quite a bit of washout or general annoyance. All 4 of these lights are in the “Kitchen” room, but there are two additional zones, “Front Kitchen”, and “Back Kitchen”. This allows me to orchestrate all 4, or either set of 2 with ease. The app will warn you that zones are not supported in integration services such as Google Home, but that seems to mostly be a Cover Your Ass statement, because after syncing devices, I am able to issue commands such as “Hey Google, turn off front kitchen lights” without issue.

Scenes

Scenes are the sauce. Every room or zone you create has a set of prebaked scenes added. These scenes are accessible via Google Home commands by asking Google Home to “activate” or “turn on” a $scene_name. Handy mood or functional lighting scenes included are:

  • Relaxed (50ish% yellow light)
  • Dimmed
  • Reading (100%ish yellow light)
  • Concentrate (some blue/white light gradient)
  • Energize (100% blue light)

The color scenes are mostly a means to get you started, but they aren’t bad, so feel free to keep using them.

Adding Scenes

When you add a new scene through the Hue app, it will show you a bunch of pictures that are preloaded into the app that you can choose which will cause Hue to automatically assign colors and brightnesses across the lights in that room. Each of these pictures can also be cropped (zoom in on a specific area of the picture) to manipulate the colors. Play with this. It is honestly cool as fuck.

Additionally, and this took me ages to realize, you can load pictures from your phone to this gallery to create scenes. I use this exclusively to create all of my new scenes because the Hue app does such a good job of distributing colors and brightnesses when given a random photo input. Movie screenshots or any still that captures the mood you’re going for is a good starting place. Again, play with this.

Provide scenes you create easy to remember names so that you don’t fumble around when you are trying to activate them later via Google Home.

Tips

  • “The lights” will map to the correct set of lights if the Google Home device you’re using is assigned to the same room as the lights you wish to control. This cuts down on the verbosity of your commands:
    • “Dim the lights” (defaults to 10% I think)
    • “Dim the lights by 50%”
    • “Make/set/turn the lights to $color
    • “Turn on/activate $scene
  • Any time you update scenes, rooms, zones, change light names, move lights, or add new lights, ask Google Home to “sync my devices”. This is key to fighting bitrot and a major game changer.
  • With the above snippets, its very easy to fine tune groups or individual lights on the fly for specific situations, but if you find yourself doing specific things frequently, I highly recommend setting up a scene in Hue so that you can quickly activate it with a single command.
  • Similar to the above, when orchestrating multiple devices (e.g., smart plugs) or rooms in one command, you probably want to set up a Routine in Google Home that strings together multiple Hue commands or directly manipulates the state of each light / device. I use this functinoality to have the christmas tree lights come on (via smart plug) when we turn on the Christmas color scheme.

Cool Things

Your lights and their orchestration are completely functional even if your internet is down. Unfortunately you can’t command them via Google Home because it round trips to the mothership for each one.

Your lights operate in a mesh. Whether or not they will receive a command is dependent on how close the farthest light is to another light, not how close the farthest light is to the bridge. This is a small detail that you probably won’t care about, but if you use this system when you live in a house, you will really really appreciate it.

Hue Labs

Hue labs is a web app where the Hue folks roll out stuff not ready for prime time or one-off experiments that range from neat to total shit. There is one in particular though that you should fuck with that will rotate through your scenes with a configurable gradient and time cycle, which is good fun for extended periods of drug usage.

There is an official API that your Bridge supports which you can use to talk directly to the bridge and do cool things that I haven’t yet begun working on:

  • Simple IFTTT stuff (e.g., blink lights if $important_person is calling me)
  • Explode a movie into its individual frames and feed them to the Hue API one at a time to recreate a movie as a “animation” of types.

Other Products

Some other products you might want to consider if you decide you don’t hate me for doing this to you and want to push further into the ecosystem:

  • Meross WiFi Smart Plugs. These have a physical override button on the plug which can be handy. Cheap as dirt and easy to integrate with Google Home.
  • Light Strip
  • The Spotlight. I highly highly recommend this and it is probably the best value per dollar in the Hue ecosystem. The only downside is it takes up a decent amount of space and it works best in corners to provide large splashes of bright color. I would have gotten you one if I knew for sure you had a good place for it.
  • Basic white smart bulbs. At less than 15$ per pop, these are great value for the functional places in your home that you don’t need mood lighting for but would still like to be able to control remotely or via voice.

I would generally recommend staying within the Hue ecosystem when it comes to lights simply so you aren’t forced to do orchestration via Google Home, and can instead rely on Google Home as a command bus / integration hub.

Macros I Use

  • Ok Google, Goodnight
    • Reads me weather for tomorrow
    • Turns off all devices other than nightstand light and sets nightstand light to 35% yellow light
  • Ok Google, turn on Christmas/Spooky town
    • Turns on my color lights to a specific scene configured in Hue app
    • Turns on smart plugs that I have configured + attached to Christmas lights or other holiday bullshit