The magic mirror of the future won’t just say you’re the prettiest of them all. It’ll also tell you the time, date, weather outside, upcoming calendar appointments, and more. In fact, you can make such a smart mirror right now. All you need is a Raspberry Pi and some DIY work.
A smart mirror is featured on one of these amazing videos to peek into the future. You can’t yet buy a smart mirror, although that should happen soon enough. For now, your only option is to build it yourself. It’ll cost you roughly $300 to start from scratch, but you can easily cut costs and get it down to $100. Especially if you use the low-cost, hacker-friendly Raspberry Pi.
Why You Need a Raspberry Pi
A smart mirror is basically a mirror with a screen behind it. That screen can be an Android tablet or a computer monitor. Naturally, a monitor will make for a larger mirror. It’s also a great way to repurpose an old LCD monitor. But you can’t cram a full computer in there, unless you use a Raspberry Pi.
The Pi is basically a credit card-sized computer. It runs Linux-based operating systems, and has a large community of developers. In fact, the smart mirror DIY community prefers the Pi over all other methods. Throw in its $35 price tag and it’s a no-brainer to use this over any other gadgetry.
At the moment, no one has made a smart mirror with the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero. It should be possible, but you’d need to add network connectivity.
What You’ll Need
Whichever smart mirror project you decide to do from this list, there are a few elements you’ll always need. To make your search easier, and to stop repeating ourselves, here are the most important components.
A Two-Way Mirror
It’s a smart mirror, so it should be no surprise that you actually need a mirror, right? The project requires a two-way mirror, which you can buy at TwoWayMirrors.com or head to your local hardware store. Ideally, get it from the site since you can customize the height, width, and edges. It has become so popular among the DIY crowd that it has a separate smart mirror price calculator now.
An LCD Monitor
This is the best way to make use of any old computer monitor you have lying around. Behind the mirror, you’ll be installing a monitor. You could buy a new one, but you’ll save big bucks by buying used devices instead. Hit up Craigslist or Freecycle and you’ll likely find one for cheap. Needless to say, the monitor needs to be smaller than the mirror.
A Raspberry Pi
So far, no one has made a smart mirror with the $5 Pi Zero. So your cheapest option at the moment is using a Raspberry Pi B for around $20 and adding a Wi-Fi dongle. If you can afford it, get the new $35 Raspberry Pi 3 (CA/UK), which has built-in Wi-Fi. Choose the product and distributor that’s best for you on the official site.
A Wooden Frame
Something to hold together that mirror and the monitor behind it. You can optionally skip this step, but it’ll look a bit rough around the edges, and require serious cable management. Your local hardware store should sort you out.
Along with these, you’ll need all the basic tools required with them. So make sure you have a screwdriver, screws, sander, woodworking tools, and so on.
MagicMirror²: The Original Open-Source Pi Smart Mirror
This is the MagicMirror². There are many like it, but this one is Michael Teuw’s. He was among the first to build and document the entire smart mirror process with a Raspberry Pi. In fact, he made all his work open source and modular, so that anyone could build their own and improve on it.
Michael has written a six-part series on the MagicMirror², so you can read all about it on his blog. He’ll take you through the full setup and build.
The best part is how easy he has made the process. Run a simple bash script from MagicMirror², and your Raspberry Pi will be ready to go. The default modules include a clock, a calendar, weather forecast, news feed, and a complimentary message. And people are building third-party modules that you can install.
If you’re new to the world of smart mirrors, this is the project to start with. It has a large community around it and you can ask for help on the MagicMirror² forum.
MirrorMirror: The Best Hardware Guide
Dylan Pierce’s MirrorMirror isn’t related to MagicMirror, but it’s just as useful. Mainly because Pierce’s original blog post is the best step-by-step guide to the actual building process.
Pierce broke from the norm and installed Raspbian on his Pi, then loaded Chromium to run on startup. Finally, he made his own web page and server.
Before you make your own smart mirror, read the full post. Pierce was building this smart mirror as a gift. So he has taken care to ensure it looks brilliant. There are useful steps in here, like how to remove a monitor’s bezel or cable management. But the jewel of the piece is in his woodworking.
If you aren’t familiar with woodworking but want to make a frame for your smart mirror, Pierce’s build is the best. He even set up a MirrorMirror forum for any help you need.
You can actually interact with Evan Cohen’s smart mirror by talking to it like an Android phone. And yes, it still runs on a Raspberry Pi — you don’t need an Android device.
Cohen has provided the full documentation of how to build, install, and operate his smart mirror. The video is really impressive, and it works with several third-party apps. For example, you can control smart LED lights like Philips Hue by talking to your mirror.
This one too has a wonderful, detailed hardware guide. If you’re planning to build it, use the provided guide instead of Pierce’s method.
Smart Mirror Mini: The Cheapest Yet
If you don’t want to spend much on your first build, go with Nathan Patrick’s build. The Smart Mirror Mini costs just less than $100 to build.
He cut down the size to save cost, using a 7-inch screen instead of a full-size. So the display area will be limited, but remember, you can still use a larger mirror if you want to. Maybe only use one corner of your entire mirror instead of the whole surface.
Can you make a touchscreen smart mirror? Yes, it’s possible. But that means fingerprint smudges. It’s smarter to use gesture-control. For that, you need Hover, a Raspberry Pi expansion module for gesture and touch sensors.
Builder Adam Laycock still hasn’t got the whole thing working well, so you can follow his blog to see where this goes. Or if you’re a coder yourself, play around with the Hover repository to build your own gesture-controlled tools.
Websites — Guide (Not Finished)
The Coolest Mirror Yet: Touchscreen Smart Mirror
Ryan Newlan made the absolute best smart mirror we have seen so far. It looks cool, but more than that, it does cool things. It’s a touchscreen mirror with a bunch of great apps.
You can watch YouTube videos. You can browse Reddit. You can control your Nest smart thermostat. You can even hail an Uber! Newlan hasn’t shared how he made it, so we don’t know if this uses a Raspberry Pi or not. But just look at it! Oh yeah, it’s real.
Smart Mirrors: Raspberry Pi vs. Others
If you’ve made a smart mirror, we want to see what it’s like. So share a link in the comments below.
More importantly, if you’re going to make one yourself, would you build one with the Raspberry Pi or go with a different device? Android-based smart mirrors seem easier, since there’s no coding involved. But they’re also much more limited by screen size.
What’s your take on smart mirrors?