Floating Smart Magic Mirror From Old Laptop With Alexa Voice Recognition

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Straight out of the future, the smart mirror is simply a display behind a one way mirror. One way mirrors can reflect most of light that hits the surface while still allowing some of the monitor's video behind it passes to the surface of the mirror.

The mirror also has an Amazon Echo Dot hidden behind it to enable all of Alexa's vast voice control features just by calling out to Alexa.

Unlike most of the smart mirror builds that are based of the Magic Mirror OS built for the Raspberry Pi, this smart mirror is built on a windows platform. There's nothing wrong with the Magic Mirror but it hasn't been built to be interactive and mostly displays static information. Furthermore the raspberry pi hardware struggles to do anything more than display static widgets.I wanted to be able to walk up to my smart mirror and be able to give it commands via voice. browse the web and maybe watch some YouTube/Netflix.

One more way my build differs is that I didn't want a frame around my mirror and wanted to maintain a floating glass look rather than building a frame around my smart mirror. To do this I drilled 4 holes into the mirror and attached the frame to these screws in the glass.

So after building this very smart mirror with my raspberry Pi as the brain, I decided to upgrade it to something more powerful, yet I wanted a cheap alternative especially considering how cheap the Raspberry pi is. The best way to do this was to use an old unused that was lying at home unused. If you don't have any old laptops, you can very easily get a second hand laptop of websites like ebay for dirt cheap.

Materials used:


1. Glass with 1 way mirror film applied by hand (you can also purchase a readymade one way mirror)

2. Wood, screws, nuts and bolts for attaching hardware to the frame.

3. A Cheap Display appropriate for your glass size. I bought mine second hand.

4. An old working Laptop

5. Amazon Echo dot

Software used

1. Windows

2. Rainmeter

3. Rain meter widgets as linked in the software page

For more projects visit my website at tinker-spark.com

Step 1: Preparing the Electronics

Before you start disassembly, note that the following steps will most likely void your laptop and monitor's warranty. Do note, this step isn't cumpolsory and you can direectly atach your electronics behind the LCD. However removing the electronics of the laptop and monitor allow you to get a significantly thinner and easier to build mirror.

You also want to make sure all the hardware works before before you disassemble and install it in the mirror. You can also skip to the Software step to test the software and see if the OS runs well on your machine.

Before you start, make sure to discharge your body ESD or use ESD safe tools.

Start by removing all the screws you can find on your laptop. If need be, look for an online repair guide to see how the laptop is dissembled. Once inside, make sure to document any step you take either with a photo or with a written note. Take the motherboard of the laptop out and make sure that the WiFi card, ram, cooling fan, and hard disk are connected to the mother board. You can disconnect the laptop display cable, battery, track pad, and keyboard cables at this point. connect your motherboard to your external display and make sure that the bare motherboard can boot before you proceed. If the mother board can't boot, try to retrace your steps and figure out what part is preventng the motherboard from booting.

Once the laptop motherboard is ready, Decase the monitor too. Remove any bezel and stand till you're left with the bare lcd pannel and the small driver and power boards that are linked to it. Again make sure all the stippied components still work.

Lastly you wan't to solder a cable that plugs into the wall on one side and plugs into both the display and laptop power supply. This is a simple y shaped cable harness where the LCD and Laptop input power is parallel.

Step 2: Building the Frame and the One Way Mirror

I didn't want to build a tradional and simple frame where the frame would go around the mirror. I wanted to give the mirror a floating look so I hid the frame behind the mirror. To mount the frame to the back of the mirror, I drilled 4 holes according to the drawings attached above.

I used a combination of Wood stocks and screws to build a rectangular shape for the monitor to sit in. I used black tape to cover the areas of the glass taht the monitor doesn't cover so that light doesn't leak from behind the monitor.

Make sure the frame you build is strrdy enough to hold the LCD and all your electronics.

Since everyone's frame will differ depending on their hardware, I reccomend you build your frame as per your needs and as you see fit. I have attached pictures of my frame for reference.

Step 3: Mounting Everything

Mount all the electronics to your frame. One way to keep your mirror thin is to keep your laptop power supply in the area where the lcd pannel doesn't cover yet the mirror covers.

Add a way to attach your frame to your wall. I used 2 blocks drilled into my wall and a cable tension system to mount my frame to the wall. You want to make sure that all your hardware is working and that you have a power line running to where you're mounting your mirror.


I also hid an Amazon Echo Dot behind the mirror for voice recognition

Step 4: Configure the Software

The heart of this build is windows 10 that's running 'Rainmeter': a popular desktop skinning app available here.

Once you've mounted your mirror on your wall, go into to your display properties in windows and select the appropriate display scaling for you. While here, you also want to change your wallpaper to black because black parts of the mirror reflect more light. You also want to make sure that our mirror is set for 'never sleeping' in the power options. Lastly, make sure that the taskbar auto hides by right clicking the taskbar, clicking properties and selecting the auto hide feature.

Setup the Amazon Echo Dot as per the setup guide.

Download list. Use any widget you want in addition to the ones linked here:

Step 5: Navigating the Interface

You have a few options for navigation on the interface.

1. Use your voice for triggering Amazon Alexa to answer your query

2. Don't navigate. Use a wireless keyboard or team viewer to set up your smart mirror and leave it as is.

3. Use a touch compatible display (Best but priciest solution)

4. Use a leap motion. I tried this but the leap motion isn't precise enough and it gets tiring to hold you hand in the air for so long. Some good apps for using the leap as a mouse are mudra mouse and gamewave

5. Extend the laptop's track-pad. This is what I did. I extended the ribbon cable by cutting and soldering extra ribbon cable.

Step 6: Future Upgrades

I am using the track-pad of the computer at the moment to navigate the interface as you can see in some of the pictures. I tried other ways such as gesture control or touch but gesture control is too finicky with the leap motion and building a touch screen using IR lights is too complex and will make the mirror look ugly. In the future, I want to use a LCD panel with touch built in so it's minimal extra work for me to implement it.

Secondly, It makes more sense to use something more power efficient like the Intel NUC or Compute Stick rather than an old laptop for a mirror that will be powered 24/7

Check out my new Tech & Robotics website Tinkerspark.org: A Hub of Robotics, Engineering,Technology content & meticulously crafted online courses taught by industry professionals

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50 Discussions

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LNGbrdr709

10 months ago

This is awesome. I've been wanting to build one for a while now but haven't found a particular interface that I like. What you have displayed looks awesome. I have an old laptop laying around that I could flash and set up like this. Ultimately I'd like to have a touchscreen but like you said, the cost would be more substantial than $0! I have an old Windows Surface laying around too - do you know if Rainmeter would work with that?

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Saral TayalLNGbrdr709

Reply 10 months ago

Rain meter is actually quite easy to run even on old and cheap hardware. An old surface would be more than powerful enough and comes with the added benefit that you might not need to disassemble it because of it's small footprint. You could also directly add a one way film to the screen and call it a day because of how the surface has a really good touchscreen built in! Let me know how the project goes!

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Gandolf the green

9 months ago

this is very awesome. I think I will build one this summer, however I want to try for the touch display, I know with some phones if your carefully take them apart, you can separate the touch sensor and the display. The touch display looks like a large piece of glass with wires attached. I wonder, if anyone knows if the same is true for touch screen laptops and if so, would a coat of mirror paint on the back affect it at all. Cause then you could reassemble the screen, so it looks like a mirror unless it is on. Also a AMOLED display would be amazing here, because the black pixels, don't release light...

other than that, this is an amazing project.

kudos

Gandolf

1 reply
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Saral TayalGandolf the green

Reply 5 weeks ago

Very sorry for the late reply,
I wish you the best of luck with your build. Yes, a touch panel can be added as you mentioned. Do note that there are 2 types of pannels, capacitive and ressistive. Ressistive is very easy to implement, but leaves a small air gap with a plasticky finish. The capacitive is glass based and doens't have an air bubble but is much more finicky and expensive to implement.

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cano

6 months ago

very cool and inventive buid.

is that a ultra wide screen?

thks for using motion frog. wanted to

use one and now know what to expect.

there this British guy on you tube using alexa on

the pc to give it comands.

how long did it take you to biuld?

1 reply
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Saral Tayalcano

Reply 5 weeks ago

Thanks!
I am not using an ultra wide screen, I am using a traditional 16:9 screen.
The project took me a few weeks to build.

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napoleaum

5 months ago

Is it absolutely necessary to run under win 10? or it will work with 7 or xp?

1 reply
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Saral Tayalnapoleaum

Reply 5 weeks ago

Any windows version will work as long as it supported by rainmeter. (Windows 7 is, XP isn't)
:)

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starphire

10 months ago

A "one-way" mirror is simply partially silvered material, which reflects/transmits equally in both directions. The optical illusion of "one way" mirrors depends entirely on the room being more brightly lit than the space behind it. It's all about the contrast. Minus a small amount of absorption by the material, the percentage reflected + the percentage transmitted light cannot add up to more than 100%. In truth, if the material is reflecting 90% of the light, then it is transmitting only 10% of the light from the monitor behind the mirror. Eyes are not good judges of brightness, but careful measurement of your mirror with a light meter will confirm that it cannot simultaneously transmit 80% of the light from the monitor while also reflecting 80% of the room light. Luckily there is still enough light from the monitor getting through to make the magic mirror effect work, so it doesn't really matter if it's only 10-20% of its natural brightness. You could just edit out the misinformation in your introduction. :)

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Saral Tayalstarphire

Reply 9 months ago

Thanks for the clarification. I will updated my Instructable to reflect this. :)

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jbenfield

Question 10 months ago

Great build!! In your pictures, it shows you using a touch interface. How did you implement that in a floating glass format? Everything that I've been able to come up with has either a bulky frame or at least one edge with ugly PWAs sticking out that have to be covered.

5 more answers
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Saral Tayaljbenfield

Answer 9 months ago

Is that the case? I haven't looked deeply into touch monitor options, but I have seen how screens in touchscreen laptops and smartphones that don't have bezels could be a straight drop in upgrade.

Looking online, these desktop monitors seem to have touch without a bezel. Can you see if these would fit your use case?

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9...

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N...

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N...

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9...

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Saral Tayaljbenfield

Answer 10 months ago

One more thing I forgot to mention, I am using the leap motion to control the cursor in that image. Apps like GameWave and Mudra Mouse allow you to use your leap motion as a mouse

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jbenfieldSaral Tayal

Answer 10 months ago

I wonder if the leap would work from behind the glass?

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Saral Tayaljbenfield

Answer 10 months ago

I haven't implemented a touch interface yet. I'm still using a trackpad at the bottom of the screen. The touch interface would be very simple to implement however. Just use a touch monitor instead of a non-touch panel like I did. I plan on upgrading to a touch panel soon and I'll post an update to this project then!

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jbenfieldSaral Tayal

Answer 10 months ago

Darn. I got all excited when I saw the pictures of you prodding at the screen :(

Touch monitors have the same issue that I mentioned; They have a nasty PWA that has to wrap around the edge or they have sensors in a bezel that spoil that whole "floating glass" look. I also haven't been able to find a touch screen or resistive/capacitive overlay that big. You end up with a rectangle of touch sensitivity stuck off in a corner or along the edge to try to hide the wiring. The only viable solution that I've come up with for the true "floating glass" touch screen is to have the image projected like a teleprompter and have a camera behind the screen watching for fingers and gestures. (and it's tough to get my wife to let me knock a wall out for the "cool factor" :(