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Day 8: Beginning the build

All the diy smart mirrors I have seen online is about the size of a 24” monitor. We wanted to build something bigger so the mirror could do well being displayed in a large room or at an exhibition.

In fact, we’re not going to just use a single monitor, oh no. We’re going to use 3x 32” monitors!

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Each monitor will be showing a third of the total display, meaning we will have ample real estate for showing high resolution video feeds, while allowing a steady stream of news and social feeds to be visible concurrently.

Not wanting to limit the area where we could displays things to a small corner of the mirror, we decided to put screens behind all of the mirror.

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Wanting a mirror at least 0.5 m x 1m the decision fell on 3 32” monitors.

The mirror itself is a cool sounding two-way mirror, just like we know them from cop-movies, using them in the interrogation room, allowing the officers to get a good look of the perpetrator sweating away while being questioned.

In order to get a nice mirror effect from the one-way mirror the ‘dark side’ needs to be proper dark.

Based on this I ended up with these Samsung monitors because they have VA panel = good black level, low price and only 10mm thick.

In order to have the monitors fit inside the mirror frame, it is necessary to do some customization to the Samsung screens.

I stripped the bezel of the monitors, to make it lean and to get exact measurements for the size of the mirror, which ended up being 72cm x 132cm. Leaving 5cm room for electronics which should suffice given the current requirements and schematics.

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I’m not sure if Samsung condones of the methods I used to pry open the monitors, but it worked just fine!

All this plastic encasing just takes up valuable space without providing anything necessary for our use, since the monitors will sit inside a protected frame and behind the mirror, for our prototype this will be adequate.

In the future we might consider some protection, perhaps some form of insulating, considering some of these mirrors might be placed in bathrooms where the dampness and humidity might play an important part in the longevity of the smart mirror.

To control the monitors the choice fell on raspberry pi. Three raspberries actually, one for each monitor. With the Pi zero being available from 5$ this is the cheapest way to build a video wall.

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Although we could have gone for cheaper Raspberry Pi’s, we ended up with the latest version (3B) which will enable full HD video playback, and ample hardware specifications to support heavier apps and continuous use.

The Pi’s are running on Linux OS. The Mirror software is running natively in a custom electron app. The electron app calls an api, allowing us to decide what is displayed and the placement of it on each monitor.

Jonas Schwartz from Nodes created this drawing illustrating the setup:

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With a pretty good idea of how the mirror should be build I was ready to begin..

However i quickly realized that since I am now in a software company I was missing all basic tools, equipment, components and a workshop… more about this next time!

 

Smart Mirror – Build, Develop and Display – An IoT Project

Welcome to the Smart Reflection blog

I am going to use this first post to tell a little bit about myself; what brought me to Nodes, what is IoT, why are we here (not existentially, but on the blog) and where we are heading.

You will also see why this first post missed the deadline because I had too much fun using googles doodle tool and suddenly ended up having created my first stick-figure cartoon.

My name is Torben, I’m an electrical engineer and I wrote my master on user centred design and lean startup. Beside my official title I am also a self taught business developer.

Until june 30th I was co-founder and CEO of a startup called Spiio. Spiio’s customers are companies who water plants in offices.

Those companies used to have employees drive around to every single one of their plants and stick a finger in the dirt to see if the plant needed more water or not. This resulted in a lot of arriving either too late = dead plant, or too early = money wasted.

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So we built a cheap wireless sensor to put in the soil next to the plants. Measuring temperature, light and soil moisture it enabled us to tell when the plants actually needed to be serviced.

Put some nice software, customer insights and algorithms on top of this sensor data and – bam! – you have a service that these companies will pay for (yay!).

Sell the service as a subscription, then you have a scaleable business model and investors and public funds will give you money.

We founded Spiio in april 2015 and when I left we had raised 1.5mio dkk in soft money (= no equity giveaway), we had three employees (besides the founding team) and had sold sensors to trees and green walls in Apple stores in the US and the AirBNB head quarter.

I still believe in the case. – But on june 30th 2016 my girlfriend and I became parents, and soon after I realized that how I wanted to be a parent was not compatible with Spiio moving its activities to the US; 70 hours work weeks; no vacation etcetera. I soon decided to leave the company.

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[1]

Googling around for exciting places to work I found Nodes, and it looked awesome. I contacted the Aarhus-office, one thing led to another and now at private dinners I tend to get into conversations that go something like this:

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And that sums up is where we are now: Nodes is building a Smart IoT mirror.

I was asked to write a bit about where we are going with the mirror, so Ill tell you …

We want to have the right hardware to enable a cool user experience using our software. This could be using the camera to measure heart rate to tell if you need more or less coffee?

Or use the 3D sensor to recognize gestures, combine that with facial recognition and we can make a tinder-swipe-networking mirror for conferences? Or what about the jukebox mirror that recognizes when your friend is simply too drunk to be DJ’ing.

Cool hardware + awesome apps + great UX = magic! And that’s where we are going with the nodes mirror…

So even the mirror might not release the full potential of IoT by connecting industry, smart cities, health care or agriculture, but it is an AWESOME project to inspire and showcase the possibilities of IoT.

See you next time!

 

[1] Source: http://www.libelium.com/libelium-smart-world-infographic-smart-cities-internet-of-things/