Thursday, November 8, 2018

On the Lighter Side

Light, my light, the world-filling light, 
the eye-kissing light, 
heart-sweetening light!... 

- Rabindranath Tagore; Sally Crabtree Chooses Light

Just when I start to think I might be getting a little bored with my apps, Lighter comes along.

Wait...let me start at the beginning. In 2004, I had what would have been the perfect bachelor pad, and the perfect canvass for Hue. Some things happened and I fell, so to speak. I had to live with my parents for a while, and had to manage through some major life-threatening illness. In 2013, I was given the chance to start over, in a tiny apartment, which later Hue helped to make a comfortable lair. The apartment was all mine, the white walls were my new canvass. With Hue, and a handful of apps, I was able to create environments at will, to whatever my fancy. 

Enter Ligher:  a new app from A Better Home, Inc., created by software engineer and developer David Pewzner. Although it has only been around for a short time, Lighter offers nearly 150 dynamic scenes. 

There are 10 sections:
  • Classics - Classic lighting, fire, flame visuals and sounds.
  • Colors - Various animations colors, color theory staples, and static one-color scenes.
  • Sunsets - Sunset scenes from around the world.
  • Nightlife - Scenes from bars, clubs, etc. with sounds.
  • Forests - Forest colored scenes and sounds from all over.
  • Oceans - Colorful moods based on the sea.
  • Sunrise - Wonderful sunrise scenes from around the world.
  • Love - Lots of reds and pinks with cheeky names.
  • Halloween - Wonderful colors of Halloween with spooky sounds.


Right off the bat, there are four really great features that come with Lighter. The user has control of the brightness; the volume of the audio; a built-in UI control that allows you to skip through the scenes of the section like skipping through tracks of music; and a "favorites" feature.

The first two - brightness and audio control - are an absolute must for me. I have no interest in an app unless I can control the brightness. I have a pretty robust system, and I like to use a lot of it at any given time. Admittedly, I don't usually use the sounds, but now I'm definitely going to have to buy a Bluetooth speaker, especially for the fire sounds, more on that later. 

The skip control is something I have not seen in other apps. It allows you to try a few, or all the scenes in a group. It's just as fast and easy as if you were skipping through songs on your favorite music app, with no lag.

The "favorites" feature is, ironically, my favorite feature. There are a lot of good apps for Hue, but I have not seen any that will allow you to create a "favorites" section for the scenes or animations that you like or use the most. For an app that has nearly 150 scenes, this is a very useful feature considering per the law of averages, most people are going to like some more than others.

This would also be a good time to mention that Lighter will use whatever room setup you have established with the native Hue app, in addition to other lighting groups you may have created in other apps. For example, I have my standard room designations, but I also created additional groups  in an app called Ambee that I like to use.

Another great trait Lighter has is its response time. Lighter responds IMMEDIATELY. There's probably some way to measure it in milliseconds, but I run my Hue system in my apartment, not in a laboratory. There's also no interference with other parts of your system. For example, another app I use has a five second lag on the switches when it runs. So smooth running across the whole system is key.


One thing I love to do (and I think I have a pretty good talent for it) is to renew, renovate or re-purpose things that have little or no value into something useful and beautiful. In 2013 I inherited an electric fireplace, the kind that has a built-in heater and pretty realistic looking flames that are essentially made using light and shadow. It has a beautiful solid oak mantle. The motor began to die in 2014. It began to make a hard grinding noise that disrupted any feeling of relaxation that I used to get out of it. Replacing the hearth was akin to finding a needle in a haystack, and for a while I considered replacing it.

When I got my Hue system I started thinking of ways I might put some lights in it. One night I decided to tear down the entire hearth. I gutted it completely, took out all the wires, fixtures and motor. I got some cords from IKEA and put two 3rd generation hue bulbs in it, one in the front and one in the back. I have been able to create some really cool fireplace scenes. But up until now, I haven't found an app that had a sufficient scene to make it look like real fire. There have been some that I tried, but they were just not bright enough. Using the Lighter Candle scene, I was able to created something beautiful. The fire has a nice flicker, the color is consistent with what you'd expect to see in a fireplace, and the brightness is perfect!

In the process of doing my review, I reached out to David to ask him about more intricate details about Lighter. He's very ambitious and is working hard to create an app that really stands out against the competition. Some of the things he mentioned were a wake-up feature that would allow the user to set a sunrise scene to wake up to. He also talked about a desire to possibly integrate Siri and/or Alexa.


I have downloaded probably about 50 apps for Hue, give or take. Complete honesty here - the majority seem to be garbage - full of features that I'd never use, setup that seems to make no sense, and scenes that I'd never use. However those that are good, are really good. And when an app is really good, it wins my loyalty. I'm excited for Lighter. I can see that I will get a lot of use out of it. And I'm excited to see where it goes. Lighter, with full feature functionality, is available for free until November 30, 2018 on the Apple App Store and Google Play. I recommend Lighter with a five star rating.

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