Mini Magic Mirror for Under $60 USD

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A 'Magic MIrror' is a project where a 2 way mirror is placed over a screen of some sort. Where the screen shows black pixels, the mirror is reflective. Where the screen shows white or lighter pixels, they shine through. This creates an effect of being able to have digital text, icons, or even images show through a mirror, while still maintaining the reflectivity. The third picture above should show what that can look like.

The youtube video shows the assembly end to end, and has a demo at the end showing what the finished project looks like. I wanted to take time to write down the steps here, as I enjoy the instructable community, and I wanted a place to make notes about things like the software configuration, and answer questions.

I've seen a ton of magic mirror projects and have always wanted to build one. I started to build one recently as a gift, and had no idea how much the 2 way mirror portions can cost! After spending $75.00 (USD) on a mirror alone, I realized that the project was going to go well out of our 'friend gift budget' and I had to rethink my strategy. After discovering N-O-D-E's channel on youtube, he had a concept of a small pyramid case. I immediately began to run with that concept, experimenting with what raspberry pi's I could fit in, how to easily create the case, and how to get the software running.

In the end I chose to 3D print the case. I designed the case in tinkercad. It's two simple pieces that easily snap together. The Mirror is a 4.5" mirror that is simply glued (glue gun) onto the frame. The main computer is a Raspberry pi zero with an 8 Gig micro SD card, and the screen is a 3.5" screen from Kuman that had an HDMI port already on it. Honestly 75% of this project was the tinkercad design for the case, and figuring out a screen that would fit, could be powered easily off a single USB cable, and customizing the software.

Here's the cost of the parts to give you a rundown. It's under 60 dollars if you have a 3D printer...otherwise you'll want to either hire out the 3D print, or possibly build a wooden pyramid frame (I ALMOST went that route, and may in a future instructable, as I think a stained oak case could look really cool for this :) )

Raspberry pi Zero W - $10.00 - Adafruit.com - Limit one per order

8Gig Micro SD Card - $4.00 - Amazon.com

Kuman 3.5" TFT Screen - $29.99 - Amazon.com - HDMI Version

SN-Riggor USB Cable (Optional, but adds some flair) - 4 for 16.00 ($4.00 each) Amazon.com

2 Way mirror - 115mm Square - $5.00 from Tap Plastics (I brought the 3D printed case into a store and had them cut it to match)

3D filament - About 2 bucks worth

Mini-HDMI -> HDMI adapter - 2 for $6.00 (Only need one): Amazon.com

In the end I had some of the adapters already, but you should be able to get these for the above prices or better, and in the end be under $60.00. Since this was about how much we'd spend if we got each other an Xbox or PS4 game, this fit into our 'friend budget'.

Ok, enough of an intro, let's learn how to build it!

Step 1: Step 1 - Assembly the Compute Portion

The first pic shows all of the parts laid out. The second shows the compute portion assembly in progress. There's not a lot of magic at this point...here's the steps:

  1. Make sure you do NOT solder the headers onto the pi zero. You'll need all the space you can get!
  2. Place the Mini HDMI to HDMI port on the Pi Zero
  3. Place the HDMI->HDMI adapter that comes with the Kuman screen into the HDMI Slot
  4. Place the Kuman screen onto the other part of the HDMI adapter..this should fit into the female HDMI port on the Kuman screen
  5. Place the USB cable through the back of the pyramid
  6. I've annotated the picture with the power wires, and added the pi pinout. This step is critical, but a lot easier than it seems...you'll want to run two small wires from the first and third pin on the Pi over to the screen. If you use jumper wires, you can plug them into the back of the screen, and then bend them around the pins on the pi and hot glue them. Ideally these should be soldered on the pi, and hot glued to hold them into the screen. This passes 5 volts from the pi to the screen, and is one of the tricks on keeping this project clean and neat...once this is done, a single cable powers the pi and the screen sufficiently!

At this point you're already about halfway done with the assembly. Before closing it up, let's get the software image written in the next step.

Step 2: Setting Up the Software

There are a ton of tutorials on how to write an SD Card image for a raspberry pi onto a microSD card, and I don't want to retread that ground. But it is important, since this is a Pi Zero W we're using, to know some tricks to get this up and running. First, please visit Emmanuels site at:

http://emmanuelcontreras.com/how-to/how-to-create-...

He's done the work to document and create an image of the Magic Mirror software onto a Raspberry pi zero (as you can see by his steps, this can be quite difficult). Scroll down and you'll see, at the bottom after his steps, a ready made image you can use. (If you search for 'Image file' it should get you there).

Next up, you'll want to follow the steps he has listed for connecting to wifi and adding ssh. One REALLY important tip here: Do NOT use Notepad in windows to edit the supplicant_conf file. Notepad will mangle the line endings to not be Linux compatable, and you'll not connect. Notepad++ is a free replacement for notepad and can do proper line endings.

When you've written that image (I use Win32 disk imager on windows) and edited the supplicant_conf file and added SSH, you'll be ready to insert the card and boot the device.

At this point the Pi should connect to your wifi. The trick then is to find it :) There are a number of ip scanning apps out there for phones and PC. Advanced IP Scanner will work for windows. For an iPhone, I use iNet on my iPhone to scan for the pi zero. When you find it, you can use a telnet app like Putty to connect to it over SSH. This will be important for configuring the MagicMirror Software and installing addons!

Once you've gotten this far, connect the microUSB to power, and ensure you can boot up and connect over SSH. At that point you'll be ready to move on and button up the case.

Step 3: FInishing Assembly - Installing the Screen in the Frame and Adding the Mirror

Ensure that the screen boots and turns on when you plug power into the Pi. The boot time is 3-5 minutes, so please be patient..it has to boot the pi, then get the browser launched, and then launch the magic mirror software. Luckily you shouldn't be booting/powering this down often (it costs less than 7 cents a year to run with about a 100ma power draw). Next we'll finish assembly:

  1. The screen plugs onto the back of the 3D printed Frame. Please use the pictures as a guide..the 'front' is the flat portion, the back has the plugs and stuff coming out. Insert the screen from behind.
  2. When the screen is snugly fit, place a rubber band around the pegs and over the screen to hold it in place. This was the simplest way I could come up with to hold the screen, and it's worked well. It's also nice because the entire project comes apart seamlessly if needed with this approach!
  3. Insert the power cable into the Pi. You wont be able to do this once it's assembled, so it's time to power up!
  4. Press the 3D printed frame holder into the pyramid..the tabs on the outside will keep it from sinking in, and it should snap into place somewhat snugly.
  5. Before adding the mirror, use black tape around the portions where the screen meets the 3D print. This is so that there is no light bleed...I tried to make the frame as tight as possible, but this simple step will ensure that it stays clean. Cover the silver of the screen as well, so that no light gets reflected out of the mirror and ruins the effect
  6. Hot glue over the tape that you just placed, and press the mirror on. (Note: The frame/screen should all be assembled at this point, so placing the mirror on should allow you to align it with the pyramid corners and have everything lined up nicely). Don't use too much glue or it'll show..a light bead is enough. The mirror isn't a lot of weight.

You should start getting excited now, as you should start seeing the fruits of your labors show...the time or date should be showing through the mirror. Next up is configuration!

Step 4: Final Assembly and Configuration

At this point your essentially assembled and should be running the software and able to SSH in. The modules are probably a mess however, and you're wondering how to fix them.

First up, you'll want to read a bit about how the Magic MIrror software works. That can be found here:

https://magicmirror.builders/

This wouldn't be a good instructable though without giving you a quickstart/cheat sheet to get started. Here's some tips and an explanation of how this works:

  • Magic Mirror modules are simply git cloned from the module repository into the module folder. So when you're SSH'd in, cd to the MagicMirror directory (remember in Linux directories are case sensitive). Then cd to modules. Then you can git clone any of the addons into that folder.
  • A list of modules are here:

    https://github.com/MichMich/MagicMirror/wiki/3rd-p... Each should have instructions on configuring them.

  • one Module you'll immediately want is MMM-Carousel. This module cycles through all other modules that are installed. (https://github.com/barnabycolby/MMM-Carousel)

  • To configure the whole thing, you'll want to go to the MagicMirror/config folder, and edit the config.js file

  • In Config.js, you'll want to add the name of the modules that you've added via Git clone above. You'll want to position them (I positioned all of mine into: middle_center. Then the carousel takes care of showing one at a time, and switching between them It does so after a configurable amount of seconds (I used 45 seconds for mine)

  • Note that you'll want to resize the fonts. Sometimes you can do this in config.js, but others you'll have to find the .css file that comes down with the module, look for something that ends with .px, and change the values to up the font size. I found that this varied by module.

I found that the time/date, weather, stock, and traffic modules worked really really well with this project. Media modules such as animated gifs or youtube do not work well on the Pi Zero W, so please be aware of that.

Next up are final thoughts and future plans...

Step 5: Final Thoughts - What I'd Do Different and What I Liked

This project was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hours of editing config files, 3D printing, and design work to get the case where it ended up. But in the end, it came together well I think and my wife enjoys the mirror (I'd built the first for a friend and she immediately wanted one too!). I'll likely build one more, and change some things up for style reasons, and some for performance reasons:

  • I'd add a knob to the top. The pyramid look is VERY clean and futuristic, however it doesn't allow for any fast control of the mirror. I think a simple knob to change manually from one screen to the next instead of waiting would be handy
  • I'd try to add a speaker - I think having this stream music would be really cool...or play alert sounds
  • I may try to build it out of wood - While the 3D print is super easy to replicate and build these, I think an oak or stained wood look would be really cool
  • Moving to a Pi3A+ - The A+ wasn't out when I built this, and so I fell back to a pizero. An A+ adds 15 dollars to the price (but has a full sized HDMI, so maybe only adds about 12.50), but adds a ton of power. Also the browser is not GPU accelerated in this build, and an A+ would be...so I think the increased power would be handy.
  • Removable mirror - I think a removable mirror would be handy, as some media such as youtube isn't great to view through the mirror. Also this could be a cool casual game system with a rotating screen (just rotate the pyramid and lie it on a different side) if it was built differently.
  • Add a mic - I could integrate Alexa and make this a smart assistant, or voice controlled, if I had a small mic added.

In the end, there's something about simplicity and being inexpensive. This project was just that for me, and assembling the second for my wife took me less than 15 minutes (outside of the 9 hours of 3D printer time :) ).

If you build one, please let me know, and if you have questions please leave them below or on the youtube channel and I'll work to answer them. The youtube video has a demo of the mirror at the start and end...it's hard to describe it in pics. It looks super clean next to a computer, on a bathroom counter, or on a bedside table. Also there are probably over 100 modules available...everything from computer stats to bitcoin prices. This really can become a heck of a data display, and because it has the computer in it, it runs separate of anything else (well except wifi :) )

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this build!

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    2 Discussions

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    OculumForamen

    13 days ago on Step 5

    Great Instructable bro! The result is really cool! Is there a way to change the color of the display screen to black instead of blue? The screen is still slightly visible with the screen having a blue background. Other than that, it's a superb idea! You could even put in on the side /top or bottom of Larger mirror hanging on the wall!

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    jfarroOculumForamen

    Reply 11 days ago

    Hi Thankyou!!! So the camera's not doing a great job of showing it, but what you're seeing is the backlight of the monitor coming through...it's actually 'white' but looks bluish through the mirror...on the webcam. So the problem is more of a dimming the backlight to hide that effect vs. a color change. The good news is that it IS possible to fix...the monitor I used (the Kuman) has a button to change the brightness by 10%. The downside is the text gets a bit dimmer as well, and wouldn't have shown up on film as well. For 'in real life' it works fairly well. I'm looking for a tinted plastic or something I can put between them for my next version to try to increase contrast...which is really what you'd want to fix that bleed through. Glad you enjoyed the instructable!