The bridge is a radio device that translates your phone's bluetooth signal into the “flowtoys connect” radio signal that works with your props.
If you are an EE comfortable woking on embedded systems, you can also make your own bridge from off-the-shelf parts. If you don't already have all the parts and tools, it will cost quite a bit. Here are instructions.
How do I get and use the app?
- Order a bridge - You only need 1 bridge to control many props.
- Update your prop firmware
Your prop firmware must be up-to-date for the app to work correctly. The app will be in beta for some time as we fix bugs, refine and add features. You can find links to update your firmware here.
- Group your props
The app talks to group IDs, not individual lights. Even if you have just 1 light, you will need to group. To group: from off, hold the button down until the lights flash or turn white (~10 seconds), let go and you are done.
- Download the app onto your mobile device
You can download the app from the iOS app store or the Google Play store from your mobile device. Search for "flowtoys connect" :)
- Open the app and register your new app account - this is NOT your flowtoys.com account.
You will need to register an account in the app in order to save custom modes, playlists, share with your friends and create shows. You don't need to register to access modes, but you do need an account to hold saved data.
- Turn on your bridge, your props and follow the basic instructions.
- Have so much fun.
The app is currently in beta. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from developing props for the emerging flow arts market, it’s that we can’t think of everything in the multiverse of possibilities. We've tested it among ourselves and a small private beta group, but nothing beats real-world testing and user feedback across a lot of different devices and use cases.
Please submit all app feedback through the “app feedback” link in the app menu. This will take you to a google form where your device and app versions are auto-filled, enabling us to better fix bugs and address issues. Please do NOT email us directly or post feedback on social media - we will invite you resubmit through the app, so it has all the key info in one place and gets to our development peops.
The evolution of the flowtoys app has been as much about planning as it has been about evolution and adaptation. Before starting on the app, we needed to develop the operating system - flowOS - and radio protocol.
flowOS was born in 2005 when we developed our first light unit - the flowlight. We realized that to make a durable light for flow props, it could only have 1 button. We wanted to keep the user interface simple for most people, but also enable a huge variety of modes and features that many of us wanted. So we developed a UI where users could access many modes simply by pressing the button, but that also unlocked many other features with a few more types of presses and clicks. flowOS was born, and with each new product and revision over the years, we adapted and refined it, applying all the feedback and ideas we could. We’ll always be improving and adapting it to new ideas and needs, but as of 2019, flowOS has finally become stable.
The “flowtoys connect” radio protocol was developed in 2017 when we concluded that bluetooth would not meet our needs for fast robust communication to many lights simultaneously. After determining a suitable radio design that could be affordably incorporated into our lights, we launched with capsule v2 in 2018. We were able to begin getting real-world use and feedback, and evolve the protocol and flowOS to best meet our needs for wireless control and syncing.
In 2019, when flowOS was finally stable, we began working on the mobile app. Neil - fellow juggler and flow artist friend - approached us and wanted to work on it as a passion project. In the beginning, we wanted to keep it simple and release it quickly, but the more we dove in, the more we realized what needed to be done. Neil is passionate about his flowtoys and his app, and we couldn’t hold him back, or afford him full-time. So we embraced his limited availability and abundant feature creep, as he embraced ours ;) The results of this collaboration are beyond what we ever imagined. And yes our development team is just Sean and Neil.
2020-2021: We were not spared the effects of the pandemic, which was very operationally challenging, pushing back all our plans by 2 years, adding lots of work and costs. In addition, global supply-chain disruptions affected our toymaking capacity, and prevented us from product development, including capsule V3, which would have also served as a bridge. So we’ve had to adapt and use off-the-shelf parts, but the parts we found for the bridge are actually pretty great and reliable.
2022: After many delays, we finally launched the app! It's currently in beta and will be for awhile as we test, get feedback and improve it. Even in beta, there's nothing quite like it in the LED props or lighting world. Yes, you can easily access all the modes, customize and save them, plus you can do so much more quickly and on-the-go, without having to pull out a laptop.
Need your lights to match your costume? Have a Halloween themed event? Or want your lights to match your team's colors or country's national day celebrations? The ability to create playlists enables users to quickly create hours of content to suit any occasion. Want your whole friend squad to have sync-ed props? You can share your playlists with a QR code. You can also download songs to create shows on a timeline, and program individual props and groups of props along the timeline on your mobile devices.
We are so excited to finally be able to share the app with you, and look forward to seeing all that you create with it.