Discovering Philips Hue Labs

In this post, I want to explore another feature area of Philips Hue - Labs.  Labs is a way for Philips to let you try out new functionality that may not yet have been fully baked into the main Hue app.  It's sort of like beta testing new features, but can be a great way to 'modify the normal Hue behaviour.

You can find Hue Labs in the 'explore' section of the app.  Within, you simply need to go through a one-time setup to use it.  This involves a quick discovery of your bridge (push the button on top of the Bridge to confirm), and you're ready to go.

Inside the Labs page, you'll find all the latest 'formulas' that Hue have available for testing.  There are lots to choose from. Some provide new and interesting ways to explore lighting and scenes, such as the 'Candlelight Romance' formula, which sets your lights to flicker gently.  There's the 'Living Scenes' formula, which transitions the lights taking part in a scene slowly through the scene colours.

Other formulas are more practical, and modify the normal behaviour of the system, or simply add functionality.  For example there's a 'presence mimicking' formula.  This turns the lights on at certain times of day - but with randomisation so an observer won't spot a pattern. Great if you're on holiday.

Some formulas work in conjunction with certain Hue accessories. For example, several work with the Hue motion sensors, while others require one of their wireless light switches.

The formula I applied during my testing is 'Tap Toggle'  The normal Hue Tap switch behaviour is that each time you push one of it's four buttons, it sends a command to activate your chosen scene.  However, it doesn't turn the scene / lights back off if you push the button again.  With Tap Toggle, it does.  This means you no longer need to have a button assigned to the 'Off' scene. You can instead have all four buttons assigned to light scenes, and still have a way to turn the lights off.

If you modify the behaviour of your system, you may be overwriting the default behaviour in certain areas of the main Hue app.  So, now for example if I go to the settings screen to look at my Tap switch, I see a notice telling me the current behaviour can't be displayed.  It's still easy enough to go back in to the Hue labs section to reconfigure from there.

You are warned that there may be bugs, and there's a way to provide feedback on the various formulas.  Formulas may change over time, or be updated.  This might affect the way your system is working if formulas are updated.

It's certainly nice to be able to modify the default behaviour or add new functionality without having to wait for it to go through a rigorous testing regime.  At some point one assumes many of these features will make their way into the main Hue app.

Of course, this is not the only way to make Hue do 'nonstandard' things.  Third party apps for example can be interfaced with the system, offering different functionality.  I'll explore that in another post in future.  I certainly intend to continue digging around what Hue can do, even with the limited setup I have so far.