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Experience Design Exploration:

A mobile app and a magic wand to control Philips Hue System’s smart LED lights.


The Internet of Things (IoT) promises a world of productivity and greater human comfort.  Electronic devices would be wirelessly connected to automatically exchange data with each other and execute pre-programmed instructions. 

However, like many new technologies, the road towards mass adoption and seamless integration is a bumpy one.  One of the biggest road bumps for IoT is user experience design.  The design challenge is to quickly teach the user how to operate the product and find delight in using it.


Light and especially colored light is such a magical thing.  The Philips Hue LED Light System provides an interesting challenge to design a new IoT user experience.  We approach this IoT UX design challenge by offering a digital solution as well as a physical one.

The design investigation led to two user experience solutions:

  1. A smartphone app
  2. A gesture remote controller

The Philips Hue system is a bundle of RGB light bulbs that connects to a hub via wifi internet.  The lights’ color and brighness is controllable via a smartphone app. When interacting with the Hue app, we found its user interaction experience confusing and clunky.  In order to change or address individual lights, you have to jiggle sliders until you discover which light is being modulated.  Moreover, the user has to switch to and fro looking at the app and to the light to see if their input in the screen matches up with the light.

The existing Hue app:


Design parameters:

  1. Design a mobile-based control interface that’s suited to for home lighting scenarios.
  2. The interface should have the ability to modify all appropriate parameters and provide feedback on the current state of the fixtures.

Control options:

  • How many light sources?
  • On, Off, or dimming?
  • Colored or white light?
  • Group control of lamps, individual, or both?
  • Ability to create groups?
  • Ability to set and recall fixed configurations, or not?

Initially, we set out to design a color picker that would be fun to use. We thought about using gamification and create an interactive light-controlling game. However, we stepped back and focus on functionality.  We researched and discussed about what features the user might want most when they first enter the home. We decided two selections are most important:

  • Select a room(s)
  • Select a preset light scheme to apply to the lights in the selected room.

In addition, we included ways to adjust the presets and characteristics of the lights included within the lighting preset.

Try it with



The Magic Light Wand proposes a simple solution to solve this unnatural interaction between phone app and the physical world by giving the user physical control. We give the “light switch” back to the user, however, we made it more interactive.

The user is able to change the light’s color and brightness by making specific gestures with the Wand. Users can keep their eyes on the light while changing its color and brightness by making gestures with the Wand.

The interaction feedback loop is now more natural.  The light immediately responds to how user move the wand.

Our goal was to create a magical and fun user interaction experience.  


How it works:

  • The Magic Light Wand can be used to control multiple lights in the house.

  • To activate a specific light, the user presses a button on the wand and point the laser at the center of the desirable light.

  • To change the light’s color, the user turns their wrist with the wand.  It’s the same gesture as though turning a house key to open a door lock.

  • To change the light’s brightness, the user raises the Wand to make the light brighter or lower the Wand to decrease brightness.  Motioning the light all the way to the floor will turn off the light.


Bluetooth wireless connection testing.

A light sensor.  This component senses the laser light from the Light Wand and triggers a hand-shake connection with the LED light unit.

Interior electronics of the LED lighting unit.

My Role: UXUI, User Research, Interaction Design, Rapid Prototyping

Tools Used: Adobe Suite, Sketch, Invision, Rhino


  • Pam Liou - Prototyping, Electronic Design

  • Dan Melacon - Backend development, Physical Computing


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Billy Dang @ 2018