Controlling Lights With Your Voice
December 11, 2012

Siri Meets Hue: Voice-Controlled Lighting

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Lately, it seems as if many people have been getting bright ideas when it comes to mixing modern technology with the relatively outdated light bulb.

Some companies, such as Phillips, have already entered this market, offering Wi-Fi enabled LED bulbs. These bulbs are able to change colors as well as be controlled by computers, smartphones and tablets via your home´s Internet connection.

When Canadian engineering student Brandon Evans first heard about Phillips´ Hue bulbs, he immediately thought of an improvement he could bring to this illuminated idea.

The Phillips Hue bulbs operate on Apple´s iOS devices, such as iPads and iPhones, allowing users to change the color, brightness levels and other settings right from their handheld device.

Apple´s latest iOS devices also feature Siri, the voice activated “smart” assistant which can control much of the device through voice control.

Evans got the idea to mix these two apps together, making the Phillips Hue bulbs respond to his voice.

“The Hue interested me, but there´s no official API,” he said, speaking to the University of Alberta newspaper.

“Some people had figured out the protocol it used to communicate and posted it online. The first thing I thought of was that it would be cool to control it with my voice.”

Evans then set out to marry the voice-control of Siri with the mood lighting magic of Hue. After purchasing a starter pack of 3 bulbs and a controller, Evans then set his attention to Siri.

As it stands, Apple has very tight control over Siri and only allows it to perform certain actions, such as create events and reminders, open apps and perform basic searches. One developer, Pete Lamonica, has found a way to unlock the full potential of Siri and has created a piece of software called SiriProxy.

While adding SiriProxy to an iPhone isn´t exactly the easiest thing to do, those who are willing and skilled in the technological arts can follow some videos and tutorials and persuade Siri to do even more than she was intended.

After installing SiriProxy on his iDevice, (it appears to be an iPad mini in the video) Evans was able to control the lights in his house using only his voice and Siri.

“It was maybe six hours total. I was really just building off of other people´s work,” said Evans.

In the video, Evans shows off how this little hack works.

First, Siri turns on the hallway light, then turns down the kitchen light. Here, Siri turns down the light in the kitchen just so before Evans asks her to turn this light down even more. Next, Evans asks Siri to turn off all the lights in his house.

The hack works, but it´s not exactly a quick process.

One of the main criticisms about Siri is the way she handles requests. Rather than decipher these requests on the device, Siri sends this voice data over the air to a data center, which then tells Siri what the user is asking her to do.

When these data centers go down or there´s no connectivity, Siri is no help.

Therefore, in his hack, Evans is speaking to Siri, who is then speaking to a data center, which then speaks back to Siri, who then speaks to the Hue app, which then interacts with the lights.

It´s much more complicated than just opening the Hue app and controlling the lights that way.

On the other hand, it does make a cool proof-of-concept video.