The Philips Hue smart bulb range, which enable you to control the lighting system’s brightness and colour output via your smartphone, is starting to expand and explore other possibilities. It’s more than just standard lights, now they even come with Mickey Mouse ears.
No really: the Disney StoryLight is an adaptation of the Philips Hue LivingColors Bloom that’s already available, but with a Disney twist. And, it seems, a Disney price twist too.
The StoryLight is a lamp for children that works with interactive Disney eBooks on an iPad or iPhone app. So when you’re reading a bedtime story from that digital slate what’s happening on screen will extend to the lamp. The page-by-page colour shifts make for an immersive, yet soothing experience.
But will it genuinely capture your child's imagination beyond normal bedtime stories, or is it just another cash-in for the Disney brand?
Light up their world
It’s pretty simple: the StoryLight is just the Bloom, but with rubberised black ears give it that distinctive Mickey look. It looks quirky but iconic at the same time; over 85 years of Mickey Mouse will do that to you. It’s designed to appeal to children aged two to nine. We like it.
For those not aware of the Philips Hue range, it’s a series of Wi-Fi-enabled lights that can be smartphone controlled. The setup includes a "bridge" box that plugs into your router which pings all the information from phone to the lights.
If you’re already a Hue customer then you’ll have this device, and then the StoryLight will cost £100. If you’ve never touched Hue before then newcomers can get the full StoryLight kit for £140. Either way, it’s not a budget device.
Like the Bloom, the 13cm diameter StoryLight doesn’t get hot to the touch, because it’s an LED bulb, which means you won’t burn it you touch it by accident - ideal for accident-prone kids then. It’s designed to sit on the floor or a bedside table, and is set to an angle rather than pointing upwards like a conventional lamp. That gives a subtle, softer bounce light from the wall it spills its light onto. At 120 Lumens it’s not designed to brightly light up a whole room - it brings that "bedtime" feel.
The StoryLight's accompanying cable isn't hardwired into the product - just like the Bloom - but will need a specific connector to the power socket included. At around 1.8m long, it gives plenty of options to find a power socket nearby, but you will still need a socket - and disguising the black cable might be a challenge.
Choose a book
StoryLight plugs in to a dedicated Disney app. With each page turn the colour of the light changes to enhance the experience. The app is free and includes three books to start with: Always Time for a Laugh from Monsters Inc, Repunzel's Story from Tangled, and Starry Night from Toy Story.
You are encouraged to buy more books at additional cost - we were surprised that more weren’t included considering the Disney lamp is a full £140. Furthermore the in-app design seems to encourage the kids to click on their favourite Disney character only for you to have to explain that you haven't got that book. Having those characters greyed out would have been a better solution all around we think.
Other stories include tales from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Finding Nemo and more from Disney’s classic archive. There are currently 30 titles to choose from with more promised.
When buying additional books the credits get cheaper the more you purchase at a time. Prices range from £2.49 for two through to £13.99 for a full 27. You can't buy just one credit at a time though - sneaky.
Clicking on an unavailable book without any credits in the bank tells you that don't have enough credits rather than asking you to buy. This allows you to load up the app with credits to treat your children rather than letting them run amok with your credit card.
Once you are happy with the story selected you can either offer to have it read to you by the app’s narrator or to read it aloud yourself. Parents always late home can also record their own voice into the app so at least your estranged child knows what you sound like.
As you or the app-based narrator reads through the story the pages turn - automatically or manually - and the StoryLight changes accordingly to help set the scene.
Once you've read through a story you can use the light as part of the standard Philips Hue set up, and that offers a range of options from different light settings. If your little one is scared of the dark then set the lamp to slowly dim to blackout, for example. Other more advanced services including tapping into IFTTT.com so the light comes on/off according to events like sunrise, or a set time - again handy for setting a bedtime schedule.
It all sounds great fun doesn't it parents? And the StoryLight really is because the execution of the technology is seamless - but the price is likely to put many people off. It’s just so much more than the Bloom.
More frustrating is that even after you've paid the rather large £140 sum for what is a glorified night light, you've still got to factor in the extra cost of the books.
The concept works, and we love the idea of adding atmosphere to bedtime storytelling for the kids, but the app isn't as creative as we would like, and, again, the price just too high.
This is what the Philips Hue system should all be about, and we like how it’s branched out into this kind of solution - but in this instance it looks like the licence costs have pushed the device cost to excess, and that costs the final score.