Smart mirrors just make you hate yourself

Commentary: Until smart mirrors learn to use their data to give us more power than shame, they won't beat the good old looking glass. Hard pass.

David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
David Priest
2 min read
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This is not how I see myself. Standing at CES 2020, the largest consumer tech show in the world, in front of LG's smart "mirror" prototype, I'm trying to suck in my gut to look a little less flabby than I really am. But the cameras -- minor errors aside -- don't lie, and the virtual me projected on the screen doesn't have the body I want it to have.

A flurry of thoughts: I don't want a smart mirror that makes me feel like garbage; but then again, if my doughy avatar confronted me each morning, maybe I'd eat more salads. Or maybe the problem isn't my body at all, but rather my own insecurity. After all, LG's ThinQ Fit mirror is just trying to help me find more flattering clothes.

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OK, let's think about this practically. LG's smart mirror isn't really shaming me in any way -- although small errors in the measurements give me a slightly but noticeably paunchier build my first time around. Instead, the whole approach of the device is to help empower users to find better-fitting clothes, presumably to form your fashion around your body type, rather than focusing on how your body type fails to fit the current fashions.

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That's cool! It's empowering in a way a standard mirror isn't.

But that vision doesn't really translate in LG's device. One feature, for instance, creates a heat map overlay on your clothes to show where they might be tight. In a medium-size shirt, the heat map lit up red regions on my belly and love handles. Embarrassing, but honestly not unexpected. The solution? Move up to a large. OK, I do this in stores all the time. I don't need a smart mirror to tell me how to find a properly sized shirt.

The problem is, changing size isn't actually the only solution -- or often the best -- for poorly fitting clothes. Finding the right cut for your body shape is much more important. And LG's smart mirror pays no discernible attention to style or cut, other than shortening or lengthening pant legs. The result is yet another smart mirror that feels less empowering and more embarrassing.

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I know this device is an early prototype -- the kind of forward-looking tech that might not find its way into your house anytime soon. And I know it's showing the potential to put power in the hands of users, regardless of body type. But right now, mirrors like LG's aren't working for me.

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Particularly as we see more aesthetically inventive smart home gadgets emerge, I wish smart mirrors would keep pace. After all, what we wear can be a sort of art, an exciting form of expression made all the more personal by our uniquely shaped canvases. For now, I'm skipping mirrors like LG's. But here's hoping someday a smart mirror will suggest something more adventurous and flattering for my body -- slightly flabby as it may be -- than a baggier shirt.