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  • Writer's pictureFrederick Dopfel

Building a Magic Mirror

Smart mirrors are a staple of near-future science fiction, often turning on when the user wakes and giving them relevant information about their upcoming day. I've seen these in movies since I was a kid, and I was getting impatient waiting for the future to happen, so I decided to build one myself.


Smart Mirror in "The 6th Day"

I needed a TV to act as the mirror, and a Raspberry Pi to power it. Magic Mirror is open-source software for creating a mirror. It turns the screen black and allows the user to configure widgets that pull information from the internet. This was straightforward to install and configure with relevant news feeds, weather data, and my personal calendar. However, I wanted this mirror to only turn on in the mornings as I got ready for the day, and then turn off and revert to a dumb mirror when I was done or not at home. For this, I connected the Raspberry Pi to a smart switch, but needed to configure the relevant software to launch automatically on boot. Additionally, I needed the software to turn on the TV screen and switch it to the correct input on boot. To solve both of these problems, I wrote a script that would run when the OS to finished booting, wait a few seconds, send a CEC command to the TV to turn it on and switch it to the correct input, and then run the magic mirror program.


Turning the TV into a mirror was trickier. One-way reflective film (usually designed for privacy on windows) can turn any flat surface into a mirror. By turning the brightness up on the TV, the white text on the black background can pierce through the reflective film and show up on the screen. Fortunately, I had a beautiful old TV with an all-glass front surface, which would allow me to cover the bezels with reflective film as well, creating a more convincing mirror. Applying the film evenly on the TV, however, can be difficult. The TV needs to be void of even the smallest dust particles, and the film needs to be stretched perfectly to avoid bubbles. Any imperfections could lead to damage that only appears months later. It has taken 5 tries, but I finally have it on "good enough" where I am happy. This was the most difficult part of the install, and since mounting the mirror, I have reapplied the reflective film multiple times.


The smart mirror is now mounted on the wall in my bedroom. It serves as a mirror for when I am picking my outfit, an information display when I wake up showing me my schedule of appointments, news, and weather forecasts for the day, and can even serve as a TV for watching movies when I am stuck sick in bed (although I have yet to do this). I find it most useful in the mornings to see my calendar, much like Schwarzenegger in "The 6th Day". Although I could have the mirror activate every time my home detects motion, I instead have it turn on as part of my alarm clock sequence, and stay on for an hour or so after.


It is fun to wake up to a little bit of the future every morning. I hope others will learn from this and consider making their own smart mirrors as well!




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