Could Smart Mirrors Be The Next Big Tech Category?
Smart mirrors are the kind of impossibly-fanciful technology-driven appliance that you’d only think to see in science fiction TV series like Black Mirror.
However, over the last year they’ve begun their seemingly-inevitable march towards mainstream availability.
First emerging as concept devices by tech companies like Toshiba, smart mirrors have subsequently rolled out to brick-and-mortar retailer outlets over 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The tech is seen as a chance to enhance the traditional shopping experience by retailers, particularly those specializing in fashion, and offer a tantalizing experience that trumps the convenience of online shopping.
Smart mirrors being sold to retailers come with unique feature sets that allow customers to capture and view 360-degree images of products and make side-by-side comparisons between them.
Ironically, however, the future of the smart mirror likely lies in homes.
Beyond retail, the concept of bringing a smart mirror to life have attracted quite a following from resourceful hackers and DIY enthusiasts crowds.
Even more recently, web developer and graphic designer Rafael Dymek has developed a working prototype for an “Apple Mirror.”
In a video posted online showing off his creation, he showcases the mirror’s elegant integration with iOS and uses it to send messages, play music, read news and watch videos.
Furthermore, the potential of a device like this to integrate with smart home tech is even more promising.
While it’s far from official, in practice it looks more or less like the kind of experience Apple would provide if they ever decided to take the category more seriously.
Which is, of course, the point.
Up until now the two biggest obstacles facing a mainstream-focused smart mirror are the costs of building a hybrid-display that large and the lack of software support.
Like virtual reality, all it will really take to unlock the potential for consumer-grade smart mirrors is one a sign of solid support from one of the big tech players. Given their recent willingness to push forward with innovation in the worlds of smartphones and smartwatches, I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung ended up being that company. They’ve experience in all the right areas of consumer tech (displays, appliances, smart integration) as it stands and, just like with the phablet, they love to be the one who makes the first move.
The fact is: whoever breaks open the category for business has the first crack at what could be a highly-lucrative new segment of the tech market. Along with the sale of the mirror itself, there’s potential for accessories and customization markets, installations, software sales and even advertising revenues.
It’s only a matter of time.