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Mirrors Could Become Latest Platform for Smart Tech

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The voice-activated Glance Displays mirror display places information on the left and right sides of your face. Planned displays include weather, time and date, commute, reminders, calendar, and scores. Eventually, other developers would be able to submit their own apps.

Your bathroom mirror might soon show more than your reflection as you get ready for the day.

Chicago startup Glance Displays has created an $1,800 smart mirror with a heads-up display to help you keep track of your schedule, your commute and whether to bring an umbrella - all while you shave, brush your teeth or style your hair.

Co-founder and CEO Dave Krawczyk got the idea in 2011 while he was in college and saw a futuristic industrial video that showed a family interacting with apps embedded in glass surfaces.

"The idea was a fluid, seamless interaction with a wall," Krawczyk said. "That's what we're going for. You walk up and it interacts with you. It knows who you are."

At the time, he didn't have the teamorcapabilitiestobuildthetechnology. But after years of working in software development and meeting his co-founders, Kevin McQuown and Michael Thies, they put a team together to build their own.

The trio of software engineers and Internet of Things developers founded Glance in February at tech hub 1871 in Chicago.

McQuown is president, chief technical officer and chief financial officer, and Thies is chief design officer and vice president of sales. They met in 2012, when all three worked at Deck5 Software in Chicago. Krawczyk and McQuown also worked together at Guard Llama andMobileMakersAcademybefore they co-founded digital technology learning lab and maker space Windy City Lab at 1871.

Glance isn't the first smart mirror to be developed, but the team aims to be the first to succeed in the consumer market.

The fogless mirror is 20 inches wide by 32 inches tall and 1.75 inches deep. The display area is smaller, measuring 15 inches wide by 12 inches tall; the display is placed so widgets frame the left and right sides of your face.

Planned widgets so far include weather, time and date, commute, reminders, calendar, and scores. In addition, the team is building the mirror to support an open marketplace that would allow developers to submit their own apps in the future, including bigger brands like Fitbit, Uber and Groupon.

Users can configure various widgets through a companion smart-phone app for iOS or Android. They can customize different display layouts for Glance mirrors in various environments, whether at home, a hotel, a gym or with a general "public" setting.

Behind highly reflective two-way mirrored glass is a high-contrast LCD display that looks like the text is on the mirror, said Krawczyk. An embedded computer connects to a monitor underneath the glass, so it requires a connection to an electrical outlet. The company sourced the glass from Cat-i Glass Manufacturing in Elgin, Ill., where the mirrors will be assembled.

The mirror uses voice authentication, similar to Apple's Siri, to tell the difference between different users. The team originally wanted to use facial recognition so the mirror would activate by a person stepping in front of the mirror. But they surveyed 100 women and all of them said, "If you think you're going to put a camera in my mirror and connect it to the internet, you're an idiot," Krawczyk said.

Now the mirror displays the user's information when the person speaks to it. That's one difference from rival products, Thies said.

"You're never touching the mirror itself," Thies said. "It's not a giant iPad on your wall. The last thing I want to do is touch, drag and swipe on my mirrors."

They plan to sell through high-end kitchen, bath and fixture retailers and to luxury hotel and apartment developers. For consumers, the suggested retail price will be $1,800. They expect to begin production in March for May delivery.

On the commercial side, the team scored a deal to install Glance mirrors in 35 suites at luxury apartment tower 3Eleven in River North now under construction by developer The John Buck Co., builder Power Construction, and architect FitzGerald Associates Architects.

"We are going to have our top four tiers - the penthouses and three premium floors - are going to have a bunch of upgraded amenities and smart home technology," said Scott Gidwitz, associate at John Buck. "It's one way for us to differentiate ourselves in a crowded marketplace."

TheGlanceteamalreadyhasraised more than half of their $1 million seed round goal. One investor is the North American unit of Hong Kong-based plastics manufacturer Jing Mei Industrial in Rosemont; one of that company's markets is the sanitary and kitchen and bath industry.

Jing Mei Industrial began searching for startups to support about 18 months ago, said Steve Edwards, Jing Mei Industrial's vice president-general manager, who personally is investing in Glance and will be on its informal advisory board.

"We've been looking at companies that are product-related that had Internet of Things capabilities, because we saw that as a future driver for companies like Glance but also our future products," he said.

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January 2, 2017
 
 
 

 

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