Smart Mirror Technology Could Change How We Use Digital
Mirrors are everywhere. From elevators to restaurants, to housed inside of our bathrooms and bedrooms, mirrors find a place in almost every type of building. They’ve become an intrinsic part of decoration, which we use to check our appearance, to distract from the monotony of waiting, and even to reflect light to make spaces seem brighter and larger. But, at the same time, digital technology is creeping into those spaces, bringing screens for televisions, displays, and computers into those same spaces. Companies now decorate as much with digital signage as they do with almost anything else, and the average home has anywhere from 2 to over 10 digital displays. As technology becomes a larger part of our lives, that trend will increase rather than decrease. Already, smart home technology in the form of smart lights and thermostats are a norm in middle-class homes – where digital displays and screens abound.
But, what if we could hide ugly displays behind a façade of normal. Smart mirrors are a technology that could, and which could do it in a way that is invisible, while providing high quality displays on-demand. In fact, they’re also an initiative that many large and small brands are now working on, which are already on the market, and which will likely drastically reduce in price over the next few years.
So, How Do Smart Mirrors and Mirror Displays Work?
Smart mirrors are available in glass or acrylic, and work like two way glass. On one side, you see a reflective coating which is typically about 70% reflective, similarly to a standard mirror. When the screen is off, you see a normal mirror, lacking any smart features. When it’s on, the screen functions like 2-way glass, allowing light from the back to go through, allowing a digital display to show over the mirror or as part of the mirror. The highest end options cost about $400 for a floor mirror (full length, 48″ x 20″), with prices going up to over $5,000 for wall coverage mirrors. Some also work with touch screen overlays, allowing you to transform an entire mirror into a touch screen.
Unfortunately, most don’t currently come with working computers of their own, instead replying on Raspberry Pi or digital media distribution systems to make the mirror actually ‘smart’. And you will have to purchase it separately on your own. However, this does mean that you can create your own using almost any well-lit mirror and a raspberry Pi, and a backlight. In fact, Michael Teeuw of Xonay Labs did just that with his MagicMirror2 modules for Raspberry Pi. His initiative is open source, allowing anyone to download and set up his work to create a virtual assistant out of almost any mirror. All you need is a mirror, a Raspberry Pi, and a little bit of tech know-how.
All smart home technology is trending towards the creation of a single integrated home system that links to a smartphone or phones, allowing users to easily enter and exit the system, and to control it from outside of the home. Smart mirrors could eventually play a valuable role in this, allowing users to integrate digital screens into their smart home tech. This could transfer into creating hidden places to watch television from the bathtub, make it easy to check traffic routes or Twitter feeds while brushing teeth, and could even translate to recipes and instructions on mirror backed kitchen walls. While this is all theoretical, it’s also clearly not far off, considering we already have the technology to make it happen.
What do you think? Should smart digital mirrors be a thing? And would they be an improvement over installing screens everywhere?