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Today's "smart home" is full of sophisticated electronics hidden in plain sight — touchscreen and Internet connections grace our thermostats, door locks, smoke detectors and more. So why shouldn't the humble light bulb join the ranks of intelligent devices? Here are five ways to convert any light socket into a powerful household gadget.
Twist — music and light
This new device (top) combines variable lighting with a high-quality speaker that runs over Apple's Airplay on Wi-Fi. No need for you to be in the same room to send music via Bluetooth — just select the speakers in iTunes and you're good to go. Meanwhile, the light hue changes from a cooler blue in the morning to a warmer yellow as the day goes on, mimicking daylight. If you prefer your speakers to be heard but not seen, this could be a good option. A $250 pre-order gets you a speaker bulb, two non-audio LED bulbs, and a special wireless dimmer device.
Beam — wireless projector
This tiny wireless projector screws into any light fixture. It won't replace your TV or big HD projector (the brightness and resolution are nothing to write home about), but it's a fun idea that might work well in a kid's room or the garage. Because it runs Android, you can stream video, play games or get on the Web — and it works as a plain LED bulb if that's what you need, too. It'll set you back $429.
Hue — adaptable, programmable color
The Hue from Philips is all about color. It can be set to switch to just about any shade of the rainbow, making mood lighting as easy as tapping a picture in the associated app. You can also set the color to change based on what's going on — a flash of blue when it's bedtime for the kids, a slow fade through orange and red during sunrise. You can set up all kinds of functions using the Web service If This Then That, or just configure them in the app. All yours for $60 — or $20 for the "Lux," if you only want white light.
Boost — extend your Wi-Fi
Who doesn't have a room in their home where the Wi-Fi has trouble reaching? Install a Boost bulb or two and they'll act as extenders for your wireless signals, ensuring you can check your email downstairs, out in the workshop, or wherever. Like the rest of these bulbs, you can use an app to control the brightness as well. There are a few bulb style options available, starting at $50.
Snap — security camera in a socket
Connected security cameras are the hot new thing, but in a way, the best view of a room might be from the ceiling. That, at least, is the idea behind Snap, another smart bulb from the same company as the Boost. Snap works like a Dropcam (now Nest Cam), letting you watch the camera's view from your phone or have it alert you when, for example, someone enters the room. Good for security or dog-sitting. No price yet on this upcoming gadget, but that'll show up on its product page soon enough.