The main benefit of Android over Apple's iOS has always been its open, accessible and customisable nature. This is what helped one Google engineer to create one of the best Internet of Things gadgets we have ever seen – a smart bathroom mirror.
Using a two-way mirror, an ultra thin display and an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Max Braun created a bathroom mirror which subtly shows the date, time, weather forecast and news headlines. The thin display is embedded between the mirror and medicine cabinet door, while a nearby shaving plug powers it.
In a blog post on Medium, Braun explained: "Sometime late last year I realised that I wanted my ordinary bathroom mirror to be more like the future we were promised in the movies. There doesn't seem to be anyone selling the product I was looking for. The individual parts, however, were fairly easy to get."
Braun is a Google software engineer who previously worked at the search giant's Google X labs, where off-the-wall projects like Glass and autonomous cars were developed. He ordered a two-way mirror, a computer display panel and simple controller circuit board, plus several cables, the Fire TV Stick and some arts and crafts supplies.
Although this list makes the project sound incredibly simple, Braun admits: "In reality there was quite a bit of experimentation and some dead ends before I got to this set of parts," and adds that it may look finished from the outside, but " is by no means final".
Pulling in weather reports from an app called Forecast and news headlines from the Associated Press, the mirror is in fact a colour display, but Braun has deliberately kept things simple to avoid to being distracting. The only colour, he explains, is in the weather forecast widget, which features a yellow sun.
Beyond weather and headline, Braun is already looking at new features. "Other concepts I'm playing with are traffic, reminders and essentially anything that has a Google Now card. The idea is that you don't need to interact with this UI [user interface]. Instead, it updates automatically and there's an open-ended voice search interface for anything else."
But the beautifully clean interface hides a messy, do-it-yourself backend which Braun is hoping to tidy up in future versions of his smart mirror. He also says the software contains just "a few hundred lines of code" and he is still experimenting with different hardware to run it all.