LEGO Powered Up app with Power Functions and remote support! Too good to be true?


What’s up guys this is Balazs from RacingBrick I’ve been silent in the past two weeks as there were a lot of things
going on this whole COVID-19 situation affected us as well as I mentioned
previously we started the process of moving out from our flat and we also
started a renovation here but due to the current circumstances this whole thing
is now on hold most of our stuff is packed in boxes ready to move a lot of
things are in a warehouse so it’s a bit chaotic nowadays unfortunately I don’t
think there will be quick positive changes so I try to set up a little area
for my LEGO stuff where I can continue to work and create content for you sorry
for the mess and sorry for the terrible echo it is still very much work in
progress currently luckily I have the most important stuff around and I will
try to be creative with the rest once I finish it I will give you a room tour if
you are interested the main reason of my video today is the latest update of the
Powered Up app, version 3.1 arrived with some very exciting promises let’s see
what’s the official information the most revolutionary one seems to be the
support of Power Functions hardware as they say it is a bit techy you will see
later what this means there is also support for the Powered Up remote which
is a very requested feature the rest is about some blocks and some bug fixes so
it sounds like a pretty big deal the Powered Up app seems to be suddenly
compatible with Power Functions wow that’s the best news ever for the system
isn’t it, so are we happy Vincent? well give me a minute and I will show you how
it works and then you can decide what we will need for this demonstration is the
color and distance sensor coming in the Boost set but also available to be
purchased separately the number is eight eight zero zero seven you can check it
here you will also need the Power Functions infrared receiver, battery box
and motors for the test since there is no magical adapter appearing what can be
the trick the Powered Up color and distance sensor has a special IR TX mode that
means it can be used to transmit infrared signals to the receiver and
send commands to control the Power Functions motors this sounds very
promising but as always there’s a catch here’s the block to set the mode of the
sensor you need to set it to seven to access this functionality this is the
other block that we will use and this is where it becomes complicated I mean
really complicated there are no simple commands that you can use no port or
channel selection no forward backward stop or set speed commands nothing
there’s a port selector to define where did you connect the sensor and then
there are three numeric fields with hexadecimal values how does it work well
for this you need to find the Lego Power Functions RC documentation published
like a decade ago that describes how the LEGO infrared protocol works on a very
low and techy level after studying carefully document you can get some idea
about the commands and you can start to send commands I have to tell you that I
only had a quick look and I’m not totally familiar with the protocol so I
will only show you some basic examples now I will explore the possibilities
further but that definitely requires more time so the first block says the IR
channel used from 0 to 3 you will have channel 1 2 3 or 4 the second block
defines a lot of stuff but the most simple way to use it is to select 4 for
the control to red port and 5 for the control the blue port this is single
output mode with pulse width modulation speed control selecting output A or B
with the third block here you can set the speed 0 is float which means no speed
then from 1 to 7 you increase the speed forward it is break then from 9 to F
remember this is hexadecimal you have the speed decreasing but backwards there are other modes as well like the
combo direct mode driving both channels for example 015 will
drive both outputs forwards 010 stops them so there are a lot of
other things to explore okay so these are the basic commands in the code is
there any way to use it to control something sure but as always it requires
coding and lots of coding since we are still stuck with the two control
interfaces I try to create something simple with them here’s a basic setup
that uses the sliders input to drag the two motors attached to the infrared
receiver as you can see the motor speed is all around the place
the reason is simple the values expected to control the motors should be between
0 and 15 in hex and the sliders are pushing values between -100 and
+100 to have this corrected you either need some advanced mathematical
trickery which I will skip now as it is 1 a.m. again or you can try to assign
the different values of the sliders to different speeds and this means the code
grows big very fast the result is sort of working by the way
but it is very far from being simple by the way despite hints in the update
announcement I found zero information about this functionality on LEGO’s
website hope to see this coming somewhere in the future so let’s see the
other big feature the ability to use the remote this is again something that we
wanted to have for a long time let’s find out how it is implemented
first of all the app now recognizes the remote and it can also connect to it
which is great there’s a new input block that can be used to utilize the buttons
as an input for the different actions so how easy it is to control a motor like
forward backward stop can you simply add a block that controls motor speed at the
input block speed value and use it well unfortunately not the numerical output of
the remote input block is not what you would expect for a first sight it has
codes for the different buttons for example 1 for forward -1 for
backward 127 for the red button this means to use it you need to
create a proper code that controls the motor speed and the direction you would
like to achieve the environment helps you in a way since you don’t have to use
the numeric values in the logical conditions you can use the symbols of
the buttons instead but again it requires longer coding to achieve
something as simple as a motor control with a remote
since the remote offers bang-bang controls so only full forward backward
and stop is available this is a simple code that pretty much replicates
what you could do with the Power Function remote I will explore further
possibilities later like train speed control and other stuff and share the
code samples as usual so what do you think about this update? I was again very
excited to see the announcement but as it turned out the update is really not
what I was waiting for honestly I have to say at this point that developers of
the Powered Up app are heading in a very wrong direction
these new features are cool but they are useful only for a handful of experts who
are totally into LEGO coding don’t get me wrong I still like the app and all
the possibilities but it really feels like a tech demo for LEGO nerds and not
something meant to be used by most of the kids this is not what LEGO is about
LEGO should be easy and intuitive to use
I think the Powered Up app and whole system is totally schizophrenic at this
point on one side we have the closed set related control profiles where you have
no any possibilities for customization and you have the same thing in the
Control+ app for the Technic models on the other side there’s the super
complicated free pay coding area of the app without any simple solutions and
obviously without any documentation that makes it impossible to use for 99% of us
and unfortunately there still nothing in between these two solutions no
options to simply plug in a motor or two and control it with the remote or a
virtual slider or joystick without any coding and I’m pretty sure that’s what
most of the kids would prefer to see so if I can send a message to the LEGO
developers instead of the tech demos please make something simple and
customizable for the masses there are already third-party apps out there
trying to fill the void have a look at them and create a simple system that can
be used without coding I’m also interested in your opinion let
me know what you think about the update and the status of the whole app is it
really good this way do you like this direction and I’m simply overreacting
the situation or you also think that the whole system supposed to be much more
simple please let me know in the comments if you like this video then
please give it a thumbs up you can also subscribe and tap the notification bell
if you want to see more Technic reviews and other LEGO RC videos see you
next time bye bye

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24 thoughts on “LEGO Powered Up app with Power Functions and remote support! Too good to be true?

  1. have been waiting for this vids! watched your video twice, thanks for very in-depth review (as always). Totally agree with you that Lego Should be intuitive to use… and I think it's transition period. They might need some more time

  2. You are absolutely right, that is far too complicated and too expensive. You need space on the Lego model to add the powered up box which you normally do not have. I am an electronic engineer and have created several remote control interfaces to power function parts i.e Arduino sending IR commands, Sbrick, BuWizz, RaspberryPi, ESP32. Lego should develop a little box in the size of the IR Remote Control and in this box should be the BT Receiver and 2 Motor drivers.

  3. Mit kérnék a Lego fanok:
    -Hosszabbító kábelt
    -Elosztot hogy a PU vonat aksiba ne csak két dolgot lehessen bedugni.
    – Átalakítót a két rendszer között. Mint ahogy a 9v és PF között csinálták
    Lego:
    – Csináljunk a Boost apba egy szekciót ami megtanulásához több óra kell és a vásárlók 99% soha sem fog rájönni hogy kell használni.
    Eddig sem voltam nagy fanja az új rendszernek de ezzel semmi sem tettek hozá a semmihez. A váltás kérdése fel sem fog merülni bennem amég nem adnak ki egy átalakítót. (Akkor is csak egy aksit fogok venni mert a Bluetooth azé elég jó)

  4. I hate the whole idea of using an 'App' because it means nothing will work in 5 years time. The modularity and adaptability needs to be built into the remote and the hub, not another gadget.

  5. Best wishes from the UK. Thank you for the review it is useful to see where lego is going with this at at least they have defined the low level technical coding which means it will be technically possible to control powerfunctions in future with some work by either the lego group or third party app.

  6. Thanks for the interesting video. This update is definitely not what I was hoping for. Is it too much to ask for a simple plug and play experience like with the old PF system? Right now there's not even a way to just power a motor like with the old battery box… Do you know if it's possible to have a train control scheme for a simple small linear motor hooked up to the hub? Right now I'm using the remote and unfortunately that only makes it go full speed either way and I have to hold the button.

  7. At first when I heard (well, SAW) the news about PF compatibility with Control+, I thought "Alright, so we're finally there". When I saw this requirement for the hub and IR transmitter, I thought "ok I'm not there yet"

    It'd surely be more helpful if the app could connect to PF IR system , though.

  8. Thumbs up!
    And now: 5 connections are possible. 2 are used for the hubs, 3 are left for 3 remote controlls. Go for Liebherr controller interface ;X

  9. About the part being simple to use for kids, isn't that the reason why there's a difficulty level selector? When you click on the three dots menu of the code editor and change the number of bricks, you can select the the level of difficulty from easy, medium, and difficult, and it will filter out the blocks to make it easier for kids.

    Or did you mean simpler as in certain high-level blocks should already exist such as PF IR controls, motor position calibration, etc so that people can just use right away?

  10. Hey racing brick I really must need to know. So when you have the remote connected to the app and you do some coding to tell what the remote must do and what the hub must do you basically connect a hub to the remote and the buttons you press will make the hub do what you coded (if you didn’t exit the app of course) right?

  11. Just wondering: is it possible to interact with a ev3 infared receiver using this new feature? Because it would be really powerful to control a ev3 through a custom programmed app interface.

  12. Very disappointed with this pseudo-support for PF.
    That's definitely not what I was expecting.
    Oh well… Sbrick should help if LEGO doesn't want to. Other option is just to buy PoweredUp hub and self-adjust cables from PF to match the plugs of PUP system.

  13. Thanks for making this video! Really disappointed it won’t work with just PF because I don’t have PU. The set up looks impractical but it’s cool to see the two working together

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