I wanted to make something to help bring my family closer together even though we're in three different countries (and who knows when we'll be able to freely travel). It's easy enough to get on the weekly zoom chat but there's something so draining and energy sucking about zoom that after a while, even though I'm happy to see them, it doesn't feel amazing to be on those calls. We're not able to physically connect but it would be cool if my mom or my grandma or my aunt could interact with my phsyical space somehow.

I have philips hue lights that I can control via an app that philips makes. I wanted to:

Here's a video of the little app I built.


The three pictures correspond to the three colours. In the first one my brother and I are with our cousins at our Grandma's house. It's supposed to symbolize "I want to talk!" so when someone presses that and I see the green light, we can set up a zoom or some other video chat.

The second picture is my brother, little cousin, my mum, and I with my grandparents at a restaurant we loved going to near their house. That activates the red light and just means, "I'm eating :)" Now we can share the joy of food across timezones.

The third is my brother being a lazy little man on the couch and it activates the blue light. It's a way to say "good night" when you are falling asleep.

Why not use the Philips app?

Not possible! Because I'm trying to get people outside of my wifi (and my home) to access my lights, it was a bit tricky. I basically built this front-end interface that connects to a back-end app that I also had to build. This app receives signals from people that say things like "turn the light red" or "turn the light green". It needs to be running all the time because the people that would use it are in different time zones and it's gotta work if my computer is off. So I put it on a Raspberry Pi and I have that running 24/7 near my bed, just listening for signals from the web app. The Pi had to be set up to be able to receive signals from outside my wifi which involved some port-forwarding and stuff like that (boring!).


Once it receives a signal, it's able to route it to my light and turn it on with the right colour.

It's super fun and it has allowed my family to be a part of my physical existence even across the distance.