Today, Philips makes its Hue Sync app available to anyone who wants to synchronize their hue lights with what's on their Windows or Mac computer. Hue Sync detects which colors are displayed on the screen and then projects a matching aura on the surrounding walls. It works with everything, really, even music and web browsing, but the experience is especially compelling when you play or watch video in full-screen mode. It works surprisingly well. I know because in the last few days I've tested a pre-release version of the app on an iMac.
Let me guess: Like you, you spend a lot of time behind your home computer. Or perhaps it's the biggest screen in your house, surrounded by a rumbling speaker setup that's perfectly tuned to blast your face with audio while watching it, or watch videos and movies. If so, then Hue Sync could be for you.
My setup is very simple. I have a 27-inch iMac sitting about a foot away from a white wall, with an old "Pixar" lamp behind it, which is outfitted with a colorful hue bulb. I have always been a fan of Microsoft's IllumiRoom concept and those Philips Ambilight televisions that strip colors directly from the display and to the wall behind them. Hue Sync creates an approximation of this glorious effect, but with a significant impact on the CPU.
The app requires a Hue bridge on your network and you need to define an "entertainment space" in the much-improved Hue 3.0 app that went live a few days ago. My entertainment area consists of a single light bulb behind my all-in-one, but you can go crazy with light strips and other hue fixtures to create as big and bright as a light show.
When a YouTube video plays in full-screen mode and the Hue Sync app runs at "Intense" brightness and "CPU high performance," the HueSync process typically reports a CPU usage of 24 to 26 percent 40 Percent, or fall into the low teens. But the synchronization was good. There was a slight delay between the color changes on the screen and the Hue bulb, but this did not affect the experience, as the hue gently changed the colors even during fast-moving action scenes. It was particularly clever to find exactly the right colors that I could send to my lonely bulb, even though the image on the screen was a jumble of colors, as you would get on any TV program, game or movie. Light Setup, Hue Sync will map the colors across regions of the display and then send them to the appropriate Hue device. You can see this in the picture at the top of the article, with red light flooding the left wall and blue to the right, according to the scene on the display.
The following GIF was captured while streaming this YouTube video to show how accurate and fast my setup responded to Uniform color changes on the iMac:
Reducing the brightness from "Intense" to "Subtle" in the app had little impact on CPU usage. In my tests, the CPU fluctuated to "low performance" mode by 19 to 20 percent, but still peppered in the 30s. This also led to a sometimes unpleasant delay in the light synchronization and sometimes appeared jerkily on the wall behind the display. For these reasons, I left the app in high-performance mode, which is fine for movies, but could be problematic for players. Conclusion: Hue Sync is a fun little app that you can use for free an extra level of immersion in the experience of videos or movies. So, if you already have a few light bulbs, then you should really try it.