Introduction: DIY Magic Mirror and Photobooth - Arduino Powered

Picture of DIY Magic Mirror and Photobooth - Arduino Powered
An assembled kit for this project is now available
More info at this project at
The software for this project is open source

Who's the fairest of them all. Make your own Magic Mirror and find out. The Magic Mirror can read the weather, tell you how your stocks did, can be wired to your doorbell with an IP camera video feed, turns lights & appliances on and off using X-10 control, and even has a Breathalyzer that tells you when you've had too much to drink. The Magic Mirror plays pre-recorded animations based on input from various sensors. Featuring four characters, each character responds to the sensor inputs with its own personality. Characters include a skull for your next Halloween party, a pirate, a princess character, and a really mean pumpkin who disses you New York cabbie style.

Magic Mirror Features:

  • Breathalyzer with optional Tweeting
  • Photobooth Mode (Link to Separate Instructable on Photobooth Mode)
  • Speak your Tweets from Twitter
  • Weather Forecast
  • Stock Performance
  • Sends X-10 CommandsDoorbell input with IP camera feed
  • Picasa based slideshow
  • Princess, Pirate, Halloween, Insult Characters
  • Text to Speech Mode
  • Personalize it with your own Videos
  • Runs as a native application on the PC, Mac, and Linux
El Cheapo PC or Laptop (a 3-4 Year Model will work)
Arduino Micro-Controller - $30
Used 15" LCD monitor - $50
Dielectric Glass TV Mirror 4mm (2-Way Mirror) 12x12 Sample (Optional) - $20
Magic Mirror Kit with Software
Picture Frame with Oval Matte (Optional)

Sensors (Pick and choose the sensors based on your installation)

Maxbotix Promixity Sensor
Seeedstudio or Phidgets Touch Sensors (3) - $7 each
Alcohol Sensor (1) - $7
Reed Switches (2) - $5 each
See here for all supported sensors

X-10 Components and LEDs (Optional)

X-10 Firecracker - $5 on eBay
X-10 Transceiver Module - $20
X-10 Dimmer Switches (2) - $12 each
LEDs - $5

Step 1: Arduino and Adobe Flash

Picture of Arduino and Adobe Flash

The basic concept is the Magic Mirror plays pre-recorded videos (Adobe Flash format) based on input from various sensors (proximity, touch, switches). I chose Flash because there is an open source Flash library available called AS3Glue that talks to the Arduino.

On the Arduino, you have to load a program called Firmata which let's you control the Arduino from Adobe Flash (specifically Action Script 3.0). There are multiple versions of Firmata out there so be sure to use the one that comes with the Magic Mirror software download. You also have to run a serial server (included in the software download) which acts as a middleman converting serial data received from the Arduino to a TCP/IP port that Flash can access.

Step 2: Connecting the Sensors

Picture of Connecting the Sensors

I used the following sensors: proximity, touch, momentary switches, reed switch, alcohol sensor, and a potentiometer.

For the proximity sensor, I have the first video set to go off when the subject is standing at a specified distance from the sensor (the distance can be changed from the configuration program). The Video then tells the subject to come a little closer and then a second video plays.  There is also a stealth mode setting where the Magic Mirror appears as a normal mirror and then gives people a surprise when within range of the proximity sensor (good for Halloween parties).

I mounted the touch sensors behind the drywall.

Connect the sensors per this schematic below.

The door and window reed switches are the same ones used in home alarm systems. I got mine from

Step 3: Configuring the Software

Picture of Configuring the Software

After connecting the sensors, you'll then launch the Magic Mirror configuration program which tells the Magic Mirror software what sensors are hooked up as well as other configuration parameters like your zip code for the weather forecast, your stock portfolio, your Picasa album, IP video camera stream if using that option, the Arduino port, and X-10 addresses. You can also adjust the size and orientation of the video to suit your installation (ex. if you rotate the monitor to a portrait orientation).

Step 4: Controlling the Lights

Picture of Controlling the Lights

I also wanted to have the video events turn the lights and appliances on and off using X-10 control. After quite a bit of research, the best solution I could find was to use the x-10 Firecracker which is a dis-continued serial port (DB9) dongle that you can find on eBay for $5. Unfortunately, there was no built in Flash/Arduino interface for this device so I wrote my own which turned out to be fairly easy in Action Script 3.0 using the Timer class. This website was great and has everything you need to know to interface the Firecracker.

Step 5: The Installation

Picture of The Installation

Your installation can be as simple as this plug and play installation where you can be up and running in 10 minutes or a full on installation with in-wall sensors.

Of course, I had to do the full on installation which was a playhouse I built for my two girls. The playhouse is 8x8x8, I got the plans for the playhouse here My Dad built it in Oregon and then dis-assembled it and drove it down to California where we put it back together. We then poured a concrete slab for it and then roofed and painted it. Its basically a full blown mini-house with electrical, insulation, drywall, vent, TV, phone, pergo floor, etc.

The playhouse in itself was quite a project. The nice thing about building it from scratch is I was able to run all the wiring for the sensors through the walls as well as the electrical, doorbell, speaker, network, coax, and phone. Here's a separate instructable on the playhouse

Step 6: The Magic Mirror PC

Picture of The Magic Mirror PC
For the PC, an el cheapo PC or laptop will do (a Netbook works great and is nice and compact). It can't be too old though as it does need to run the video smoothly. If your PC can play these videos files, then you'll be ok. These are the same video files that come with the software installation so are quite large and will be normally running from your local hard drive so expect some network delay when you click the link.

I went the custom route and re-purposed an old vacuum tube tester case. I went with an Intel ATOM motherboard since its low power and very compact (mini-ITX form factor). One annoying thing on this model was the excessively loud fan which would ruin the effect. I found a silent fan at Fry's for $20, you can still hear it but barely. I re-purposed some of the controls, the on/off switch and a pot which is used to select the mirror mode on the fly (princess, halloween, or pirate). Also added some fiber optics for show. For the sound, I run the normal soundcard output into a whole house audio distribution system and play through the in-ceiling speakers which is nice so you don't see the PC speakers.

Another nice feature and benefit of using Flash with an Internet connection is you can play different videos based on data received from the Internet. For mine, I did different things for the weather and stock portfolio. For the weather, I call a Yahoo Weather API and then play a different video based on the forecast, one video for good weather, one for ok weather, and another for rain. For the stock, a different video plays based on how your stock portfolio performed with the stocks being specified in the config file. Same concept, one video for good performance, one for no or little change, and one for down. The threshold limits on what defines up and down can be changed in the configuration program.

For remote maintenance, VNC is setup so you can connect remotely from another PC using a ultraVNC. VNC comes with UBUNTU so if you go the LINUX route, its already there. Its very easy to install though on Windows, although I don't know if VNC works with Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Step 7: Fireplace and Fake Fire

Picture of Fireplace and Fake Fire
My wife picked up this old fireplace mantle at an antique show. I used wood puddy with black spray paint to give it a weathered fireplace look.

For the fake fire, this was easy as the Arduino and AS3Glue library have pulse-width modulation (PWM) built it was just a matter of tweaking the PWM parameters to simulate a flickering fire with Red LEDs. The Magic Mirror software has the option to use the LEDs like this as a flickering fire effect or instead you can also use them as indicator LEDs (telling you how drunk you are to compliment the videos tellying you how drunk you are) for the Breathalyzer.

Step 8: Producing the Video

Picture of Producing the Video

For the video, the folks over at make some great digital puppets which are low cost ($15) and fit the bill perfectly. The guy that runs the site is very nice and allows me to use them through a royalty agreement.

After writing the scripts, I was lucky to find a very good voice over guy who was able to do all four characters and then I produced the videos in Adobe Premiere. Here are the videos.


ZiadH3 (author)2016-06-05

Hello, thank you for the very useful information and the detailed instructions. You're truly a genius! I am trying to build my own mirror and will start working on it soon. I need to add a proximity sensor, and let whatever is displayed play all the time until someone stands in front of the mirror, then the display disappears or maybe will zoom out.

How and where is it possible to edit the software to make this happen? Your help is much appreciated.

califbillr (author)2015-04-15

The magic mirror is GREAT! I would like to add my own comments with the Gordo character. I have purchased the Gordo animation and tried to use SnapZProX2 to capture the screen. As soon as the animation starts it terminates the screen capture. Any ideas why or how to get around this? Thanks.

alinke (author)califbillr2015-04-16

Hi, thanks, have not tried SnapZProX2. The video capture software I've used in the past is called FRAPS , had good results with that one. If you end up going that way, see starting from page 60 in the manual for how to incorporate your own recordings into the software.

alinke (author)2013-06-11

nice install! on the print out resolution, if I remember, it can go up to 720 or something like that. In the advanced config program, you'll see a resolution setting, just put it at the highest res. It won't be high res/photo quality but shouldn't be pixelated either.

maestrocaldwell (author)alinke2013-06-12

Thanks! I'll give it a try.

maestrocaldwell (author)2013-06-11

I love this! One question though. Is there a way to increase the resolution of the printed photobooth pictures?The proofs on the screen are hi-res, but the printouts are extremely pixelated. I'm using the Canon Selphy CP900.

Oops. I forgot to add that I used a Microsoft HD web cam.

OCLVig (author)2012-09-04

Totally epic. Great job!

beekinfarms (author)2012-09-04

Cool instructable,

Would the software be easily adapted to the raspberry pi? How hard would it to add RFID reader?

alinke (author)beekinfarms2012-09-04

great question, I have a raspberry pi on order so I'll try it out when I get it. The key will be whether or not Flash runs on raspberry pi as the DIY Magic Mirror is Adobe Flash based. My guess is Flash is probably not officially supported so the question becomes if there is some hack/work around for it.

The better option may be Android, I just ported the DIY Magic Mirror to Android (the Android version does not yet have all the features as the PC version), that may be an easier way to go as I thought I'd read somewhere Android is available now or coming to Android. Here's the Android app of the project RFID reader wouldn't be too hard, just a matter of modifying the source,, here's the source code for the Android app

Sovereignty (author)2011-11-01

Has this ever officially received a Coolest Instructable Ever award?

GUNsicker (author)2011-10-16

Also - Is that you... Keanu Reeves?

alinke (author)GUNsicker2011-10-25

ha ha, I'll take that as a compliment, thx

maxpower49 (author)2009-10-13

ummm what does this have to do with the magic Magic Mirror

spacelf (author)maxpower492011-10-16

Do not question Magic Mirrors and the things that maybe.

if you look above the window you shall see. (pumkin head)

hihihi0hi (author)2011-10-16

That's so cool!

vistal (author)2011-10-02

Hmm i like to see a trans formers Optumis prime for my nephew how hard would that be?

alinke (author)vistal2011-10-02

You'd just need to produce the videos and then here's how to add them to the Magic Mirror Some folks have had good success with the Crazy Talk software, that would be the easiest way to author the videos.

Fireater989 (author)2011-06-28

Do the kits come with the new mask version? If not, is there any way you (the supplier) can update it or do I have to buy it myself?

alinke (author)Fireater9892011-06-28

Hi, I'm not sure what the new mask version is you're referencing but send me some details and I'll look into it. The characters that the kit comes with you can see here

Fireater989 (author)alinke2011-06-28
There's the original Mirror, then there's the Mirror, Mirror. I think you have the new one cause it was released in '08 and that's when this was written

alinke (author)Fireater9892011-08-16

yes Mirror, Mirror is the one used here

vishalapr (author)2011-07-05

I was amazed by the video!What a fantastic job u have done, wish I could make one, will try to make one soon!!!

tinker234 (author)2011-05-23

nice hey could i make this in a wall and use diffrent avatars

alinke (author)tinker2342011-05-23

hey, great questions, yes, in the manual on, there are instructions for an in-wall installation and yes you can also add in your own characters, the manual explains how to do that

tinker234 (author)alinke2011-05-24

thanks i will pick one up evantully

typedink (author)2010-10-24

This is just great! I really wish I could afford the kit.

alinke (author)typedink2011-05-23

the kit makes the wiring easier but not needed if you are good on building circuits with the arduino, you can just use the arduino, the manual on has the schematic, you'd just need the software piece

goedeleg (author)2011-04-21

Would it work with arduino uno?

mary candy (author)2010-10-16

this is the best thing I saw here!
I am in shock. :O

mary candy (author)2010-10-16


skywalker619 (author)2010-10-15

Now this!!

is GREAT just WOW!!

RichardBronosky (author)2010-10-10

Very sad. I like to contact the guy from but can find no way to do so. The "Mac" version he offers is for PPC only. The new Intel Macs can support PPC software via Rosetta, but Apple doesn't even include Rosetta in Mac OS 10.6 (2009). He really needs to recompile his Mac offerings.

alinke (author)RichardBronosky2010-10-11

Hi Richard, I have spoken to the guy at and he says he will re-compile, I will send you a message with his e-mail in case you want to contact him

Doubleblades85 (author)2010-01-31

lol i need that =]

manchaware (author)2010-01-13

Have you heard of the beagleboard? It's an ultra small (3"x3") pc board capable of playing HD video (via DVI-D/HDMI). It comes with 1 USB, 1 Line in, 1 Line Out, and 1 S-Video Out. And, it only requires 5V @ 500mA so you don't need a fan to cool it. It doesn't have a HDD, but instead sports an SD slot so you can probably run Debian or Ubuntu off a 1gb SD card.

maxpower49 (author)2009-10-13

do we have to buy the puppets

alinke (author)maxpower492009-10-13

hi, if you want to make your own animations, then yes you'd need to buy the puppets ($15 each). If you purchase the software on, the animations are included. let me know if you need anything else

dalucero (author)2008-12-04

For the touch sensor you could drill a hole halfway into the sheetrock like a mortise joint, or you could cut a hole all the way through and then cover it with one of those sheetrock repair mesh patches.

alinke (author)dalucero2008-12-04

that's a good idea, I think I'm going to try that actually, it should be much more responsive that way, thanks!

alinke (author)alinke2009-07-15

update on this one, took the advice and did it with the sheetrock repair mesh patch. That did the trick, touch sensors would perfectly now.

dalucero (author)alinke2009-07-15

awesome! glad it worked out.

Soy_Un_Oso (author)2009-07-13

that's amazing. your kids must love it, I cracked up in the video when I saw the magic mirror launching windows. it's supposed to run on magic!!!! haha

alinke (author)Soy_Un_Oso2009-07-15

I'll work on that :-)

chrispaccord (author)2009-06-18

this is pretty awesome. Is there a way to program multiple videos with dialogue and have them run randomly on one proximity sensor? (So that each time you step up to the mirror you would get a different comment from the floating face)

alinke (author)chrispaccord2009-07-15

I like your thinking, that one is actually on my to do list. It is very doable, not that hard to program at all. The hard part is coming with the dialogue. Shoot me a note if you have any suggestions :-)

contrivial (author)2009-02-28

I thought I'd seen somewhere (your website) that yu said it was quite a bit dimmer with the mirror. Is this the case? Like, how much so? Neat!

alinke (author)contrivial2009-07-15

it is dimmer with the two-way mirror for sure although it also is kind of a cool floating mirror effect. I use it in an indoor playhouse and also did two solid days at Maker Faire this year, everyone was able to view it just fine. The people that have seen it definately prefer it with the two-way mirror as it adds to the illusion. If you need anything else here, just let me know.

martincg (author)2009-05-30

hehe - you are incredible man - very good work

Phoghat (author)2009-05-23

Ok, I didn't see the link to buy in teensy little print at the top. Make it bigger man. As of next paycheck I'm there. Probably going for the build it model, have 4 grand daughters and 4 grand sons. You do the math

About This Instructable




Bio: Al is a wearable tech entrepreneur and creator of a line of smart phone controlled LED handbags With 22 years of experience ... More »
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