Powered Up: A Letter From The Team, To The Fans.

The Powered Up platform, which seeks to unify the control interface between the different forms of electronic hardware, has been incrementally updated over the last 18 months or so, progressing from being able to do little more than control sets as they come out of the box, such as the App controlled Batmobile, and Trainsets to become a complex programming environment, tying together the currently available hardware platforms, with a grand unifying interface: The train Smart Hub, Boost Move Hub and the Technic Smart Hub.

This certainly means that they have their work cut out for them. I haven’t covered the latest update for the software here before, but it offers some interesting inclusions, including:

  • Using infrared output from the Boost Colour sensor to control the old Power functions ( you will need an IR receiver linked between your battery box an motors)
  • Ability to Map the buttons on the Bluetooth (train) remote to perform more sophisticated functions.
  • Reading the position of the device you are running the app on (that is, using the accelerometers in your phone to read its position) – allowing it to control your MOC.
  • Support for using four hubs (potentially of mixed type) simultaneously

The previous update (from December last year) also opened up the Technic Smart Hub (often referred to as the Control+ Hub) and Technic motors for control. This felt like an unnecessary delay between the release of the hardware in early August, which was functionally locked into the Control+ App – which only allows control of the main model from the set, before allowing the LEGO elements to meet their potential.

Members of AFOL engagement team (the team at the LEGO group that operate between the company and Adult Fans) have been taking comments from the Ambassador Network to the powered up team.

This week, we received a letter from the Powered Up Team…

Dear AFOLs and Powered Up users,

First of all, we want to thank you for being AFOLs and users of Powered Up. Your feedback is always highly valued and vital to our future roadmap and vision of LEGO® Powered Up.

The LEGO® Powered Up app has a wide spectrum of users. From kids using the app as a remote control for their LEGO trains, bat mobile, or their own creations, to really technical users building amazingly advanced LEGO models, and everyone in between.

We aim to please the entire spectrum of users, without forcing anyone into a one-size-fits-all. We aim to lower the floor so that kids can easily get started with the app. We aim to widen the walls and offer different ways of coding and controlling LEGO models. We aim to raise the ceiling to remove limits for our most advanced users.

This means that when we launch something new, it isn’t always for everyone. Lately, we have launched a few very advanced features (Handset and LPF1 support). We realize that these are way too advanced for kids, but this is not for them – yet. These features is our way of trying to raise the ceiling and making new things possible with the app. In time, we will work on making these features more user-friendly and eventually usable by kids as well.

This does not mean that we have forgotten the kids. We are constantly trying to improve the usability of the app allowing kids to be explorative and creative. For the kids, we are focusing on making the app easier to use. Lately, we have begun the redesign of the overall user interface. This redesign is the first step in making the app easier and more intuitive for kids to use. And, more kid- focused updates are coming in the future.

On a final note, Powered Up’s primary purpose is two-fold. On the one side, we aim to make the Powered Up app the intersection for all connected LEGO play experiences. This means that we aim to support hardware from all connected LEGO play products, new and old, in one way or another, and make sure you can code and control them using the Powered Up app. On the other side, the Powered Up app is a creative tool that lets LEGO builders of all ages make their LEGO models come to life. Whether it is controlling or coding, we want to provide a tool that enables creativity. Your creativity. We want you to know that we listen to you. In the Powered Up team, we are constantly working on improvements and additions of new features.

The last Powered Up update may not have been exactly what you wanted, but it has brought joy to others. Maybe the next update will be right up your alley.

Lastly, we want to let you know that we have heard your wish for better documentation. We are working on several ways to make the Powered Up app easier to use and documentation, help, and support for users of all skill levels are a top priority of ours.

Thank you for being the best fans in the world – stay AWESOME!

Lots of love from the Powered Up team!

What does this mean?

I am excited to get this information. I love the ‘Grand Unified Platform’ concept, but it does mean that somethings become a little too hard to implement.

A simple dumb battery box would still be a great addition to the product line, especially for displays with a motion feature, running all day. A great ball contraption springs to mind. Perhaps with the option of an AC input would make this extra useful.

The utility of the Power Functions Support is yet to be fully explored. I’ll aim to take a look at this shortly.

I appreciate that the goal of the app is to work on all platforms – I wonder how far backwards this compatibility will extend: to EV3? to NXT? – both are bluetooth controllable – but EV3 does directly allow ‘remote control’ via an app, so incorporating this protocol in to Powered Up should be feasible.

I hope we can see a reduced interval between the release of SPIKE Prime, and its consumer successor and its incorporation in the Powered UP app.

I am especially hopeful for the development of further documentation: the online documentation has been frequently out of date, and inconsistent with the current state of play, as well as slow to update in languages other than English.

Hopefully we will start to see an improvement in the documentation for Powered Up coming up soon.

I have been taking a closer look at using Powered up to control Power functions accessories, using the infrared output from the boost sensor. Hopefully I can report on that, and mapping the controller soon.

At present, I find there to be some things that the platform does well, and others that are perhaps…a little clunky. The absence of clear documentation for the app is also an ongoing problem, which will prevent many users from achieving what they wish. Hopefully we will see this fixed soon.

How have your experiences with the Powered Up Platform been? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play Well.

2 thoughts on “Powered Up: A Letter From The Team, To The Fans.

  1. My biggest concern with any of these app-driven systems is the app itself, and the reliance on external devices. While I can easily grab any fifteen-year-old Power Functions system and integrate it into any lego creation, this will not be true of the Powered Up system. Eventually we will see an upgrade to the app, or to the devices on which it relies, that will force Lego to drop support for this hub in favor of a new one. Only the most dedicated techies will be able to keep the old devices running to support the old hub. It just moves Lego into the same cycle of versioning and deprecation that we see in the phone/tablet world. When I bought my children the Boost, I was surprised to learn that none of the iPads we had in the house were new enough to run the software needed to operate it, and they were not especially old iPads. With this new system we’ll see the same thing; new hub requires new tablets, then later, an even newer tablet won’t run the software for the old hub, so we need to buy whatever Lego replaces Powered Up with, hoping we can figure out how to make it compatible. I would like to see Lego apply the the timeless universality of the bricks themselves to their electronic products as well.

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    • This is absolutely a concern of mine too. I have written previously about problems with a lack of default behaviour a- without a remote or an app, the hub is just a brick.

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