May 22, 2024

Direct Remote Control of LEGO Technic Control + Hubs: Manual

Since the debut of the first Bluetooth-enabled LEGO Technic sets under the Control+ designation, there has been one dominant point of criticism: the vehicles can only be controlled via an app on a smartphone. One reason for this decision may be that unlike the power functions, the remote “needs to know” how to use the actuators. Due to the integrated gyro sensor, the current L can be used not only as a motor, but also as a steering servo (as in the LEGO Technic 42124 Off-Road Vehicle) or as a gear shifter (as in the LEGO Technic 42114 Volvo Dumper) – with different behaviours.

Thanks to the community, it is now possible to save ready-made configurations on the hubs and then connect the hubs directly to the 88010 Powered Up Remote. It is finally possible to connect the LEGO remote control directly to the hubs. Once the hub is set up, a third device is no longer needed.

This functionality is made possible by pybricks. But don’t worry, we provide ready-made Python scripts for all Control+ combinations. So it is not necessary to be able to program yourself. This post explains step by step how to access and save these configurations on the hub.

I recommend reading the instructions completely before doing this yourself so there are no surprises.

required hardware

A device with Bluetooth Low Energy is required once to install the configuration. This ability can be retrofitted to computers with suitable sticks or dongles. These instructions work with all Chrome-based browsers (such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge) and even Android.

If your computer does not support BLE, it may be possible to use a smartphone or tablet. On Android smart devices, location version is required for BLE in addition to Bluetooth. Of course, you also need the LEGO Technic Control + vehicle and the 88010 remote control.

Prepare Notepad

A website is used to upload code to hubs: https://beta.pybricks.com/. On this page, there is first a guided tour through the functions. For these instructions, the round can be ended with the cross symbol.

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Hub firmware update

A new firmware on the hub is required to use Pybricks. Old firmware can be restored to use the official LEGO apps at any time as described at the end of the article.

In the left menu of the editor you can select “Install Pybricks Firmware”. If the side menu is not displayed or there is no corresponding selection option, the menu can be opened using the gear icon on the far left.

In a two-port city hub, all motor and sensor cables must be removed for this step. This is not necessary with other hubs. Also, the hub batteries must be full before updating the firmware.

Next, you must hold down the green button on the hub that is turned off until it flashes purple/pink. The button must be kept pressed. Blinking indicates that the hub is in firmware update mode.

When the hub’s LED is flashing purple/pink, the web browser can detect the hub as a Bluetooth device. It’s called “LEGO Bootloader”. This can be specified in the menu. The selection can then be confirmed using the “Association” button.

The new software for the hub is transferred to the hub at this step. Once the loading process has begun and the hub LED is constantly changing color, the green button can be released.

There is no problem if the button is released too early and the LED no longer lights up. In this case, it can be pressed and held again until the LED flashes purple/pink again.

The update is complete when the hub LED is blinking solid blue. In this mode, if the green button is pressed and held, the hub will stop itself.

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Find a group icon

Now the code of the group to be controlled remotely is needed. The code specifies which engine is used for the routing, what additional features are present, and so on. For all LEGO Technic Control + sets, you can here Search for ready codes sorted by the specified number. Can select and copy the corresponding group code.

To be able to enter the code into the editor, a new project file must be created. This can be done in the File tab on the far left of the editor.

In the following steps the code is now executed once and then the hub is turned off. This will permanently store the token on the hub. To do this, the hub must be connected to the program via Bluetooth. To do this, the hub must be turned on with the green button so that the blue LED flashes at short intervals.

The Bluetooth connection menu opens when you select the Bluetooth icon in the top bar in the editor.

After the hub is connected successfully, the software can be loaded and run on the hub using the large start button next to the bluetooth icon. Once the program has started, the hub can be turned off. To do this, you must press and hold the green button until the hub LED no longer lights blue. If you remove the cables from the hub, they can now be reconnected.

Run the program

When the hub is off, you can turn it on with a quick press of the green button. First it is in the Connection List where the hub can be connected to the editor. The hub LED will blink blue. You should wait a few seconds for the hub to recognize the connected devices, i.e. actuators and sensors.

Then the hub’s green button can be pressed briefly again to run the program stored on the hub. After turning on the remote control with the green button, the LEGO Technic model can be controlled remotely.

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As long as the remote control is plugged in, its LED will be solid blue. The connection may not work if the remote control is turned on too early or too late.
In addition, the programs are only for the corresponding models and sometimes contain corresponding assumptions. It is very likely that it will not work properly in other models or in a “dry run”, i.e. out of model.

Restore original firmware

If you still prefer the app and want to use it again, it is of course possible to re-upload the original firmware onto the hub. This requires a compatible hub app. I recommend the Powered Up app, but the Control+ app also works with LEGO Technic models.

After all cables have been removed from the City Hub, the green button can be pressed again until the LED turns purple. Now the hub can be connected to the app. The application will download the original firmware on the hub.

Conclusion

Since I have a convenient program in each Control + vehicle so that I can control it directly with the remote control, I no longer want to change. Turning on the hub and pairing it with the remote control is much easier than launching the app and then choosing the right profile. Of course, there are no advantages to applications such as feedback from in-axis tilt sensors.

What do you think of that? Are you going to try this method or is the installation too complicated for you? If you are willing to experiment, you can also try to modify the software a bit, for example to install a winch or lights in the car.