When you think of Kohler, you probably don't think of the smart home. The 145-year old kitchen and bath fixture manufacturer is working to change that. Earlier this year, we took a look at Kohler's Konnected line of products and how the company is bringing tech into our most private spaces. Front and center in Kohler's campaign for tech-infused living is the Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror. It includes a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker and brings voice control into the bathroom.
For many people, the thought of inviting Alexa into the bathroom is downright creepy, and I understand that. Privacy concerns are at an all-time high, and most of us have at least one ax to grind with technology or the internet these days. Still, I can see the convenience of being able to ask for your favorite song from the shower or make a to-do list while shaving. The hands-free element of smart speakers and voice assistants is perhaps at its most practical in a bathroom or kitchen context. So I get where Kohler is going.
Still, there are big hurdles with this smart mirror -- the price, for starters. At $1,200, it is expensive. It's aimed at customers with deep pockets and a dedication to Alexa. It's not a mirror for the rest of us. It also doesn't work with Google Assistant or integrate with the smart home in any other way. If you're ready to splurge, Kohler's mirror is one fancy way to smarten your bathroom. Just know that its innovation doesn't go too far beyond slapping an Alexa speaker onto a mirror with built-in lighting. A $50 Echo Dot would get you pretty close to the same experience with your existing vanity.
Kohler's Verdera Voice mirror is 33 inches tall and is available in three widths: 24, 30 or 40 inches. (We tested the 34-inch model.) The tri-fold design includes two thin outer panels that each house an embedded LED bar. With a depth of just two inches, the mirror doesn't feel as bulky as some designs. These Alexa-enabled mirrors don't come in a medicine-cabinet style, so anyone looking for included storage will be disappointed.
The light and visibility provided by the LED bars is great. This mirror is perfect for personal grooming and applying cosmetics, and the LEDs are dimmable via a touch control or the Kohler Konnect app, or by asking Alexa to dim the mirror to a specific brightness level percentage.
In addition to the two vertical LEDs, there is also a nightlight function and a motion sensor to activate the nightlight when someone steps in front of the mirror. It's a nice touch and helpful for seeing your sink in the dark, but there isn't really enough light to illuminate a bathroom floor and keep you from tripping.
Our Labs Manager, Steve Conaway, installed the Verdera Voice mirror in the CNET Smart Home above a pedestal sink. A well-illustrated guide with step-by-step instructions is included in the box and covers everything you need to know about mounting, wiring and centering the mirror. Once the mirror is installed, you'll need to connect it to your home Wi-Fi and enable Alexa smarts through the Kohler Verdera skill. Instructions in the manual for this portion of the setup are pretty slim.
Download the Kohler Konnect app, select the device you'd like to add to your Wi-Fi network, join a proxy Wi-Fi created by the app, then return and log in to your actual network with its password. This is the same process used by many smart home manufacturers, and while it's not difficult, it is tedious. The first time I tried setting up the mirror, I had a problem connecting the mirror to the Wi-Fi. Turns out the mirror's pairing mode had timed out. There's no mention of how to troubleshoot this in the instructions, but the easy fix is to press the rubber reset button behind the control module for six seconds to re-initiate its pairing mode. Once you're connected through the Kohler Konnect app, you can enable the Kohler Verdera Alexa skill.
Alexa's smarts and the mirror's speakers are both housed in a control module beneath the bottom edge. That's also where dual, front-facing microphones listen for voice commands and where you'll find touch controls to adjust volume and lighting levels. A separate blue light behind the module waves when Alexa hears her name and when she responds to your request, similar to the Amazon's Echo speakers.
If you're worried about waterproofing and audio speakers, Kohler has you covered. The embedded speakers sit in the rear of the control module, sealed in a watertight housing to maximize sound quality while protecting the speakers from moisture. Sound quality in the Verdera Voice mirror won't knock your socks off, but it is entirely adequate for any normal-size bathroom and plays music clearly.
Kohler's foray into the future is centered in the Kohler Konnect app, the base for Kohler's smart products and the avenue for connecting products to voice assistants. While the Alexa-enabled mirror is the only fixture available right now, other Kohler Konnect products like the Sensate faucet and DTV+ shower are in the works and will be compatible with all three voice-assistant platforms.
Yes, this mirror is pricey. It's a high-end product geared toward consumers willing to spend a lot of money on bathroom luxuries. The Alexa-enabled Verdera mirror isn't even the most expensive in the line. Regular Verdera lighted mirrors start at $798 and can cost as much as $1,732.
With the Kohler Konnect app up and running and the Kohler Verdera skill enabled, you'll be able to use voice commands with your mirror. Ask Alexa anything you'd ask an Echo speaker. You can play music, adjust the volume, check the weather or hear about your morning commute. The mirror does include Echo Spatial Perception, as long as all speakers are registered to the same Amazon account.
The speaker's volume, as well as the mirror's LED lights are also adjustable with voice commands. Ask Alexa to "set mirror to 50 percent" for half the power of the mirror's lights. If you'd prefer to use a mobile device, you can brighten or dim the lights through Kohler Konnect or Alexa apps. You can even include the mirror in your Alexa routines with a specific brightness. Set the mirror to 10 percent brightness when you wake up in the morning, for example, so your bathroom has a subtle, low light or kick it all the way up to 100 percent for beauty and grooming regimens.
Kohler is pushing forward the idea of a smart bathroom by adding Alexa to its high-end Verdera mirror line. We've seen smart bathroom products make their way into our most private space before. (Kohler's Numi toilet is a great example.) With an entire panel of buttons to control warmers, water elements, lights and sounds, it's a futuristic experience to say the least.
Kohler has other smart products in the pipeline, too. The DTV+ shower and the Sensate kitchen faucet with voice control are both slated to be here by early 2019. They'll both work with apps and multiple voice assistants. The Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror wants to be that futuristic, even luxurious, but it just isn't. That doesn't make it a bad product, there just isn't really enough here to propel the combination of an Alexa speaker and a lighted mirror beyond the sum of its parts.
If Kohler's entire line of connected products comes to fruition and proves to be reliable, there's a real argument for an entire suite of connected bathroom products in the context of new construction or a home remodel. It's an expensive splurge otherwise. Could you buy a $50 Echo Dot and a more-affordable LED integrated mirror? Yes, but you'd be missing the seamless integration and adding several cords to your bathroom counter.
We'll see how the smartest line of Kohler products works together, but I can only confidently recommend the Verdera Lighted mirror to those with deep pockets who are in a committed relationship with Amazon's assistant.