DIY Smart Mirrors

The smart bathroom mirror is a signature detail of futuristic movies and advertisements. Want some visual shorthand for how far technology has come? Show your protagonist brushing her teeth, while over her reflection are laid her daily schedule, weather report, news headlines, incoming messages, and more.

So it’s kind of surprising that, even though the technology has existed for some years now, we haven’t seen a version of this product from any of the big names in touch-screen computers or the smart home (one early and expensive example, the Cybertecture Mirror, seems to have vanished from the market) — and it’s equally surprising that several attempts to crowdfund a smart mirror have failed to hit their funding targets.

Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped the DIY community from forging ahead and building what the market wouldn’t provide.

My Bathroom Mirror Is Smarter Than Yours

My Bathroom Mirror Is Smarter Than Yours Diagram

One of the slickest-looking examples was just posted earlier this month by Google employee Max Braun. It’s built from a super-thin Asus monitor behind two-way glass, with a Fire TV HDMI streaming stick running a custom Android application. The screen shows widgets like time, weather and headlines, and Braun says it can be expanded to include basically anything that has a Google Now card.

Like the examples below, there’s no touchscreen capability — and who would want all those fingerprints greasing up the mirror anyway? — but Braun’s idea was to create a UI that presents a quick-glance overview of information and doesn’t require much interaction. If he needs to know something that’s not in one of the widgets, the mirror also can access Android’s built-in voice search features.

Braun hasn’t yet posted a full how-to with the complete bill of materials, but we estimate a setup like this would cost upwards of $500, with the monitor and the glass as the main expenses.

Magic Mirror

Magic Mirror Components

Another high-quality build is Michael Teeuw’s “Magic Mirror” from 2014. He stripped a flat-screen display out of its case and built his own wooden frame, again with two-way glass overlaid. The brains of the Magic Mirror are a Raspberry Pi, which draws on APIs from OpenWeatherMap and iCal, as well as a news feed and a custom script that shows ego-boosting compliments.

Teeuw’s blog has a detailed, multi-part description of the build and the Raspberry Pi code is available on Github. Again, it would probably cost a few hundred dollars or more to put together your own Magic Mirror, as plenty of folks have done.


HomeMirror Demo

If you’re looking for a lower-budget alternative, check out Hannah Mitt’s open-source HomeMirror project. To cut costs she used two-way mirrored plastic instead of glass, and designed the project around an aging Android tablet. That means the display area of the mirror is smaller, but it still gets the job done.

Using a tablet as both the display and the smarts also has a few other advantages. For one thing, Mitt was able to package up the software as an app on the Google Play Store to make installation easy. And the app can draw on the tablet’s other hardware, like using the camera to detect a user’s mood and display uplifting comments.

If you already own a tablet that you’re willing to dedicate to this project, all you’ll really need to buy is the mirrored plastic and some mounting adhesive. A small 6-by-12-inch slice of two-way mirrored acrylic like the one pictured in Mitt’s build can cost as little as $12.

Related: Cybertecture Mirror, O Watch, DIY Bicycle Barometer

Ted Burnham
Ted Burnham

Professional Combobulator

May 20,2016