Neltner Labs

Fun Projects and Art

LIFX versus the Hue

So there are two products that came into my awareness over last fall and winter which seem so absurdly similar as to be a disaster waiting to happen.

The first was the LIFX kickstarter project. Here is their video.

At the time, the only thing I could think was – this is way, way too good to be true. Philips has to have been trying to do something like this for five years and spent probably tens of millions of dollars on it above and beyond what they’ve already done in the LED lighting space through Color Kinetics. And I said so to everyone I knew. But it got funded anyway.

I guess we’ll see. If they’re successful, great, I’d love me some cool lights in my house in otherwise ordinary fixtures! So far it looks like I was being overly pessimistic since their kickstarter updates look pretty encouraging. But my guess at the time was that it would vastly underperform expectations by being super dim, or end up as a major loss for the creators (if they bother finishing it).

Not questioning the integrity of the creators… it’s just in the “too good to be true” category for me at $69 per bulb. Maybe just unrealistic expectations of what they can do. Maybe they just wanted to prove the market, sell at a loss, and then get investors to ramp up production. Who knows. I mean, I’ve been around the block, and that is an unbelievably low price even if you don’t have to pay engineering costs.

Then like a week later, Philips comes out with the Hue. I didn’t know the name in advance, but pretty much everyone assumed something like this would be coming eventually. Maybe the LIFX accelerated their schedule, but given how heavily they were integrated into the apple store market, I assume that it has been past the beta unit testing stage for at least six months.

Is this timing of this truly coincidence? An example of an idea whose time has come? Did the LIFX guys have a heads up? The fact that they look so similar I think is meaningless – given the mechanical, electrical, and heat sinking constraints it was pretty much guaranteed to be close to that shape. So what is going on here? It’s hardly a novel idea, but it seems incredibly weird that they’d be released so closely together.

Anyway, feel free to comment with your thoughts. This has been bugging me for a while and I can’t quite figure it out. And with hopes that this new $69 Hue competitor will blow the socks off it instead of being a disappointment. LED lighting should be way cheaper than it is; the LIFX just strikes me as technologically impossibly cheap. Best of luck proving me wrong though!