Smart Mirror Mini Form Factor Update

Previously the smart mirror was resting on a wire tablet stand, but I’ve found a much better solution. I bought this iphone stand for $13 and it looks exceptionally better. The goal was always to match the Apple desktop mac aesthetic, and I think its getting there.   Originally I 3D modeled/printed something very similar, but it lacked the balance to actually stand up. The aluminum is strong enough to hold everything up (the parts are very light anyways), but also perfectly matches what an Apple mirror would look like. 
Right now I’m working on creating an OSX style icon set, loading screen, and interface. I also just bought an Intel Compute Stick, because an rpi zero gets annoying to use very quickly. Discussion: r/raspberry_pi (soon)
The bigger board is the LCD controller, the smaller is an rpi zero. Two power cords, and hdmi mini to hdmi then hdmi to hdmi adapters. The white ribbon connects the buttons for the display. I glued/taped some L brackets together to hold up the board. Compared to the previous setup, I also flipped the display upside down so hdmi port now points upwards instead of down, so it fits on top of the stand.
If anyone has a good guide for learning to take better pictures/videos please send it my way.

DIY Smart Mirror Mini


Smart mirrors are nothing new, they’ve been done hundreds of times before. They still haven’t been commercialized and I think that is due to the high price of parts. My goal with this build was to lower the price so it would be a more approachable project. My previous build cost $500. This “smart mirror mini” cost only $79.   You’ll need no tools or hard skills to make this. A familiarity with computers, like the raspberry pi, will help.   Discussion: r/raspberry_pi thread r/DIY thread (tomorrow)

Smart Mirror Mini Build Instructions (1): Hardware

Hardware Setup

Parts List

    • Tontec 7″ LCD – $45
      • For $6 more you can get a usb touchscreen piece. I’d suggest getting this, its fun to mess around with.
    • Power Supply for LCD – $8
    • Raspberry Pi Zero Start Kit – $15
      • The kit comes with the converters and cords you’ll need. Any raspberry pi will work. I haven’t found anywhere with a zero in stock, so I’m using an old model b+. You may also need a USB hub if you plan on using a keyboard and mouse instead of ssh.
    • One-Way Mirror 8″x10″ – $0
      • I went to my local plastics/glass shop and explained my project. They gave me a free sample size one-way plastic mirror. You can buy one online here for $13.
    • HDMI Cord – $4
    • Black Electrical Tape – $2
  TOTAL: $79

Mirror Prep

We need to prevent any light from getting through the back of the mirror. Take the electrical tape and tape over the backside of the mirror. Make sure to leave a rectangle the size of the LCD so it can show through. Also be sure to place your mirror on something soft so you don’t scratch it.
Now take your LCD and tape over the silver frame on the front side. If we don’t cover the silver in black tape it will reflect light and be visible through the mirror. Be extremely careful with the gold ribbon cable, it will tear very easily.
Now attach the ribbon cable to the LCD controller. Also connect the cable that leads to the buttons.
Lets test it out to make sure the connections are correct. Carefully pull the controller through your tablet stand and place the LCD on it. Connect your power cord to the controller, and turn it on.
Looks good! Now we can attach the display to the mirror. Take the mirror off the stand and place your mirror face down – so the taped side is facing up. Put your LCD face down in the square spot you left untaped. Take the electrical tape and tape around the edges of the LCD frame. We don’t want any light leaking between the mirror and the display, that would ruin the effect.
Finally, put everything back on the tablet stand and power it up. The hardware is now complete. All that is left is to connect a computer (raspberry pi) and do the software.

Smart Mirror Mini Build Instructions (2): Software


Now that the hardware is done, we can look at the software. For this I’ll be using a raspberry pi (model b+) and raspbian jessie, but any computer and os will do. I’ll skip the initial rpi setup stuff, which you can look up on your own. You’ll probably only have to turn off overscan, update your keyboard, and update your timezone. I overclocked because the b+ feels slow.
Using the LCD’s remote or buttons, lower the brightness to 0, and increase the contrast to ~70. This will make the effect look better. Hide the taskbar (right click taskbar > advanced > hide taskbar) and remove the trash bin from the desktop (right click). Change the desktop background color to black. Now you have a smart mirror!
  If you’re planning on using your mirror as a traditional mirror with some information on it, you can use this github project, or Alternatively, just watch cool youtube videos. You can put a touch screen on the front as well.


This is a smart mirror for your home. A few companies are researching them (Samsung, LG) and a few makers have made them. Check back later for more in-depth posts. For now, a summary: The mirror is made from a deconstructed 40″ LED TV behind a one way mirror, so every black pixel is “replaced” with the reflection. Any image shines through as long as its bright, and the background is black. We used a couple of pieces of software to achieve this:
  1. Windows 10 with a desktop background that is black. We also use cortana and voice recognition for opening apps, talking to mirror, etc.
  2. Rainmeter lets you put icons, images, widgets, etc. right on your desktop. We used it to create the UI.
  3. Desktop Coral forces apps to open only in the small section above the UI but below the user’s face.
You can see the instructions for building the hardware here. We built this during the business accelerator at our university, CatalyzeCU. More to come later.   Comments: r/windows10 thread (+1664, 122 comments) r/rainmeter thread (+2571, 108 comments) r/rainmeter thread (+905, 34 comments) r/raspberry_pi thread (+302, 34 comments)

DIY Smart Mirror Build Instructions: Intro (1)


Smart mirrors look very impressive, but are intimidating to build. Every other set of instructions gives you big chunks of code, and link to github repositories. I wanted to share a set of instructions that require absolutely no technical skills. THIS BUILD IS EASY. This guide will not have a single line of code and instead have clear and easy to follow instructions. I messed up pretty consistently, but came out with an awesome smart mirror. Building your smart mirror will never be simpler. So lets quickly look at the benefits of this smart mirror fork over the others, and make a parts list. My mirror is pretty large at 2′ x 3′ and so it cost around $500 and took ~30 hours to finish. You could very easily scale this down and keep your cost below $200.

Windows 10 Fork

There are plenty of different instructions for building your smart mirror (Shout out to Micheal Teeuw inspiring so much innovation). I initially planned to use a rapsberry pi, but when windows 10 was released I realized that it would work so much better. Windows 10 has comes with exceptional voice commands and functions in the form of Cortana and speech recognition. These will let us completely control the mirror with voice, while doing literally zero programming. You also get all the benefits of using a full desktop: all the existing apps, rainmeter, and much more. But at the end of the day, it is just way easier to use windows than a rapsberry pi.

Shopping List

I wanted a full size, monster of a smart mirror, so I used a 40″ TV. Most builds use something significantly smaller, and that is what I would suggest. I suggest an LED or IPS monitor because they provide better viewing angles and darker blacks compared to LCD. Pretty much every purchase I made was 1″ off of what I assumed it would be. Don’t worry, you can make adjustments to make everything fit.  
  • Cheap 40″ LED TV – $200
    • Be careful when purchasing this, a 40″ class is not actually 40 inches. Its also a measurement of the diagonal, so keep that in mind.
  • One-Way Mirror – $150
    • About 1″ on each side bigger than your display. Get real glass if you can afford it, if not plastic works but isn’t perfectly flat at larger sizes. My mirror has some warping because I used a big piece of plastic. Link
  • Old laptop, or a windows 10 stick – $0 to $100
  • Wood, nails, e6000 glue, black felt – $30
    • Go to home depot and talk to someone about your build, they’ll get you what you need.
  • TOTAL: $500-ish
      17windows 10 pic
  2: Prep the monitor  

Build: Prep the Monitor (2)

Now that you’ve purchased all your supplies, its time to start the fun. You can lean your mirror against the TV and the effect works pretty well. After messing with that, we start with a daunting task. We need to deconstruct the TV by removing all the bezel, this will let the mirror lay flat on the surface, minimizing ghosting. Take a screwdriver and go to town, remove all the plastic you can. 2disassembly Be careful not touch the exposed boards because the static can break them. This shows the back panel removed, but there was also a separate front bezel. It had a board along the entire edge, so I was extremely careful. Not careful enough though, I broke the IR sensor so my remote no longer works. 3dissasembly too Next we will build a frame to replace the plastic we removed.   3: Build a Frame  

Build: Build a Frame (3)

With all the unnecessary bezel removed from your monitor, its time to rebuild. I went to the Home Depot lumber section and spoke to an employee. I described what I was doing and he suggested the right wood, nails, and glue I needed. They also cut the lumber to the incorrect lengths. They cut each piece 1-2″ different than I asked, but I made it work.   4frame Measure your display and hack together a frame. I used some scrap wood to ensure the display would be secure on the backside. None of this needs to look pretty, as long as it functions. Now take your frame and glue some felt to the front side. This will make attaching the mirror much easier and make sure no light leaks through. 5felt To really make sure no extra light leaks through behind the mirror I placed electrical tape over the edges of the screen, and put some extra felt over spots I could see light leaking out of. Next we will glue on the mirror and frame.   4: Glue it all together

Build: Glue it all together (4)

Now that our display is encased in a wood frame and is completely light proof, we can glue the mirror on top. I used clear E6000 craft glue. In hindsight, putting all this weight on the display could’ve been bad. I don’t know if it happened in this step, but I broke 1 horizontal row of pixels in the very middle. It is essentially never noticeable though. 6glue SUCCESS! It works! I previously mocked up a few UIs and enjoyed finally seeing them in action. 1 2 3   We are almost done with the hardware! Now just glue on a frame…   15frame weight   5: Software!    

Build: Software! (5)

I hated building the hardware and was ecstatic to finally be finished. The real fun comes from playing with the software. Whether you chose to use an old laptop or a windows 10 HDMI stick the steps are the same. Set up your operating system just like normal. Create your account, login to a MS account so you can use Cortana, download chrome, etc. We will only be using two extra pieces of software, rainmeter and desktop coral.  
  17windows 10 pic

Windows Settings

We need to adjust some settings for optimal use. You can change the brightness and other similair settings in three different ways to optimize the image. Mess with brightness, contrast, etc in your TV’s settings, your graphic card settings, and windows settings. I reduced brightness and increased contrast slightly. Set your desktop background to black. Set your power settings to never sleep/hibernate/etc. Set your second monitor (mirror) to default if you want Cortna’s icon to pop up on it. Set your second monitor to portrait. Cortana: Enable activation via “Hey Cortana” rather than having to click a button. Optimize your voice recognition by tuning your mic in hardware settings. Speech Recognition: Enable activation via “Start Listening” rather than having to click a button. Rainmeter: Download the themes you like. This subreddit is a great place to find them. You can find the one’s I’ve used here. Every widget is drag and drop. Don’t forget to save the layouts you like!  
Desktop Coral: Download the ‘portable zip’ version, create 4 folders named “c-top” “c-bottom” “c-left” and “c-right.” Extract the zip to each one of these folders, and rename the .exe in each to match the folder name. This lets you run 4 instances of it at the same time. Now run each, drag it to the corner, and adjust the spacing. This creates a virtual frame so that programs will only open in that specific corralled space. Next we will be looking at optimizing how you use your smart mirror and some of the cool things you can do with it! 1: Intro 2: Prep the monitor 3: Build a Frame 4: Glue it all together 5: Software!