That’s right; a smart mirror. It’s quite literally a mirror. This meant taking photographs for this review was challenging because it’s - obviously enough - highly reflective, but we seriously are talking about an elegant block of glass you mount on a stand or hang on a wall. It’s also splash-proof if you want to use it in the bathroom or kitchen.
However, move closer, tap it or even talk to it, a la “Hey Google”, and it’s a full-featured Android tablet with a 23” high definition 1920x1080 display.
The tablet is recessed within the mirror and is completely invisible when in mirror mode. Wake the tablet and you have a familiar Android interface, albeit 2015’s Android 6.0.1 aka Marshmallow. However, you can use the built-in camera, microphone, speakers, WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and USB to do whatever you would ordinarily do in Android. Browse the web, manage photos, play games, remote into a server if you like, heck, even compose an entire review in Google Docs if you can handle typing on an upright screen for a sustained period of time.
The Embrace smart mirror is as the name suggests; it truly is an Android tablet, and it truly is a mirror.
The unit doesn’t contain a battery, despite Android reporting it is fully charged. Pulling the power shuts it off completely, immediately.
Instead of any physical Android buttons, the home and back buttons are soft buttons that float on top of the Android screen. You can easily drag them around though they’re never totally out of the way.
They also expand to give a range of controls specific to the smart mirror, including volume up and down, sleep and power options and other settings. Here you can configure the tablet to go to sleep after a defined time period, and to wake on motion or tap.
You also have full use of the Google Assistant, meaning you don’t have to touch the tablet/mirror at all. “Ok Google, play music” or “Ok Google, open Gmail” and all these things you expect to do on your Android smartphone work fine here. The first time you issue a command you may be prompted to pick an application to complete the command in, but once you set your music and video player and other default apps it’s all fine from there.
I did have difficulties getting Google to consistently respond to “Ok Google.” Originally I thought the microphone may be weak, but if I tapped the microphone icon in the Google search bar and manually brought up the assistant everything I said was transcribed swiftly and clearly onto the screen. I don’t know why I experienced difficulties here, but when it worked, it was like the stuff of Star Trek, barking orders into a screen on the wall. The speakers were loud and vibrant.
Spec-wise, the Embrace smart mirror has a quad-core PowerVR GPU, 2Gb DDR3 RAM, 16Gb EMMC storage, a 23.6” 1080P IPS LCD, 10-point touchscreen, 8Mbp camera, 3w stereo speaker, 802.11 a/b/g/n d-b Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.0, IP65 splash proof, and consumes less than 3w of power in standby and under 36w while on.
The mirror itself is 800x600x27mm and weighs 12kg. It comes with a desk stand as well as a wall mount. Be careful with the stand; you need to screw it in from underneath and although you get four soft pads to put under the stand I found the screws still scratched my table, to my wife’s dismay, and I had to place a small mat under it for safety.
Now, because this is a full Android device you can sign into all your regular Google services, run all your regular apps, and even use Google Home to control all your smart devices.
Wake up, brush your teeth and instruct Google to turn off lights and air conditioners. Or, if you’re so inclined, use the mirror to make sure you’re looking your best and take a photo then and there, posting it on Instagram with the hashtag WokeUpThisWay as seems to be the done thing.
Embrace, the company behind this device, has worked on it since 2014 and says it is a bunch of geeks who love tech, particularly tech that makes life easier.
It’s interesting to think that the concept of wall-mounted voice-controlled panels has been the stuff of science-fiction for decades, but I struggle to think of any competing smart mirrors on the market. It’s certainly novel, but it is an elegant and attractive mirror and the company has done the right thing by backing it will a full, open, unconstrained Android device. You are not limited by a closed environment and can do with it whatever your mind can imagine, provided it can be done on Android 6.0.1.
It’s pretty awesome, and you can have one yourself from Embrace. The RRP is $1,699 but for a limited time, the product is on sale for $1,374. This price puts it outside “impulse buy” range but as we move more to a world of home automation the possible uses for the device increase. You could manage your security cameras, as an example, though surely even Dr Spock surely used the panels on the Starship Enterprise to catch up on Netflix while flossing, and so can you.
It was not so easy to take photographs of the mirror, but Embrace has an official video which shows it off nicely.