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Here are the five things I learned installing a smart mirror


I recently received a review unit of the Embrace Smart Mirror. It’s essentially a 24-inch Android tablet mounted behind a roughly 40-inch mirror. It works well when third-party software is installed. Here’s what I learned.

It’s impossible to get a good photo of the smart mirror

I tried a tripod, a selfie stick and every possible angle and I couldn’t get a picture that does this mirror justice. It looks better in person than these photos show. When the light in the bathroom is on, the text on the mirror appears to float on the surface. It looks great. The time is nice and large, and the data below it is accessible when standing a few feet away.

When the room is dark, the Android device’s screen’s revealed because it can’t reach real black. The screen behind the mirror glows gray. This isn’t a big deal. The Android device turns off after a period of inactivity and is often triggered when the light to the bathroom is turned on. More times than not, people walking into the room will be greeted with a standard mirror until the light is turned on.

There are a handful of smart mirror apps, but few are worthwhile

This smart mirror didn’t ship with any software outside of Android. That’s a bummer, but not a deal-breaker. There are several smart mirror Android apps in the Play Store, though I only found one I like.

I settled on Mirror Mirror (get it) because the interface is clean, uses pleasant fonts and there’s just enough customization, though it would be nice to select different locations for the data modules. The app was last updated in July of 2017, so use at your own risk.

Another similar option is this software developed by Max Braun, a robotistic at Google’s X. His smart mirror was a hit in 2016, and he included instructions on how to build it here and uploaded the software to GitHub here.

Kids love it

I have great kids that grew up around technology. Nothing impresses these jerks, though, and that’s my fault. But they like this smart mirror. They won’t stop touching it, leaving fingerprints all over it. They quickly figured out how to exit the mirror software and download a bunch of games to the device. I’ve walked in on both kids huddled in the dark bathroom playing games and watching YouTube, instead, of you know, playing games or watching YouTube on the countless other devices in the house.

That’s the point of the device, though. The company that makes this model advertises it as a way to get YouTube in the bathrooms so a person can apply their makeup while watching beauty YouTubers. It works for that, too. There is just a tiny bit of latency when pressing on the screen through the mirror. This device isn’t as quick to use as a new Android tablet, but because it’s sealed in a way to keep out moisture, it’s safe to go in a steamy bathroom.

Adults will find it frivolous

I have a lot of gadgets in my house, and my friends are used to it. Their reaction to this smart mirror has been much different from any other device, though.

“What the hell is this, Matt,” they’ll say from behind the closed bathroom door. I’ll yell back, “It’s a smart mirror.” They flush the toilet, walk out and give me the biggest eye roll.

I’ve yet to have an adult say anything nice about this mirror.

It is frivolous

A smart mirror is a silly gadget. To some degree, it’s a crowd-pleaser, but in the end, it’s just another gadget to tell you the weather. It collects fingerprints like mad, and the Android screen isn’t bright enough to use it as a regular video viewer or incognito TV.

As for this particular smart mirror, the Embrace Smart Mirror, the hardware is solid but doesn’t include any smart mirror software. The Mirror is rather thin and easily hangs on a wall thanks to a VESA port. There are physical controls hidden along the bottom of the unit, including a switch to manually turn off the camera. It’s certified IP65, so it can handle a bathroom. A motion detector does a good job turning the device on. If you don’t have kids, it should stay smudge-free.

The Embrace Smart Mirror does not ship with any smart mirror software. The instructions and videos tell users to add widgets to the Android home screen. This doesn’t work for me, and I expect a product such as this to include at least necessary software. Right now, after this product is taken out of the box, it’s just an Android tablet behind a mirror, and that’s lame. Thankfully there are a couple of free apps on the Play Store to remedy this problem.

At $1,299, the Embrace Smart Mirror is a hard sell, but is among the cheapest available smart mirrors on the market. Of course, you can always build one yourself — as The Verge points out, it’s rather easy.



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