A Smart Mirror for the 42 Community: Meet Marvin

A Smart Mirror for the 42 Community: Meet Marvin

You are probably familiar with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. But smart mirrors aren’t marketed to a mainstream audience, so people are generally unfamiliar with them. Wanting to develop a voice-controlled personal assistant for the 42 community, students Anastasia Ziminia, Anastasiia Dosiak, Eugeniu Popa and Kyle Murray decided to create 42 Silicon Valley’s first smart mirror.

After watching Youtube videos about smart mirrors, Anastasia Ziminia gathered a team of other students who were interested in pursuing it as a project. At first, the team thought about adding it to an existing project, but they decided to join 42’s project incubator and to build it from scratch in 3 months.

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.” –Marvin, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Interview with the team behind Marvin’s Mirror

Name: Anastasia Zimina-Project Manager

Hometown: Moscow, Russia

Interests: Drawing and family. I also have a master’s degree in economics.

Dream Job or long-term career goal:  I want to be a product manager at a company that combines fashion and tech.

 

Name: Anastasiia Dosiak

Hometown: Sokyryany, Chernivets’ka oblast, Ukraine

Interests: Working out at the gym, painting. I have a master’s degree in applied mathematics and I currently have an internship at Filemaker.

Dream Job or long-term career goal: I want to be a software engineer.

 

Name: Eugeniu Popa

Hometown: Chișinău, Moldova

Interests: Architecture and art, I have a background in mechanical engineering.

Dream Job or long-term career goal: I want to work at a tech company.

 

Name: Kyle Murray

Hometown: Martinez, California

Interesting: Dancing and disc golf, I have a background in economics and finance. I worked in the wine industry for 4 years before coming here.

Dream Job or long-term career goal: I want to get into art and augmented reality and something with procedurally generated graphics and augmented reality.

What is the purpose of your project?

Our pitch is a voice-controlled personal assistant, kind of like Alexa but customized for 42. We decided to put it in a mirror because they can be displayed anywhere. Also, the streamlined design doesn’t take a lot of space. People are also more familiar with what a mirror is so it can be more accessible and user-friendly and the voice control makes it an easier interface. The smart mirror was named Marvin after the robot in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who has the ability to fetch all and every piece of information that ever existed. Although Marvin’s Mirror may not contain all knowledge, it was designed as a display of what we do and guests can use it and learn more about 42.

How does Marvin’s Mirror Work?

Marvin’s Mirror is basically a 2-way mirror over a monitor, and because it’s mostly black on the screen, the mirror remains fully reflective with text appearing to be projected on its surface. Marvin is text-based only, we aren’t running it to talk. Marvin’s Mirror is a modular, open-source project, so anyone who is interested can add more to it and build more code. Since it was designed for 42 students, we are hoping 42 students can use it to learn about interacting with different APIs and understand how to use different technologies such as JavaScript and Node-js, Electron, and NoSQL database management (MongoD).

Describe the work you did on the project:

None of us had experience with any of the technology before we started, so it was built from the ground-up. We put in many hours of work, and used Google, Youtube, and shared Udemy online courses to complete the project. We signed up as a group without knowing any javascript, so we needed to learn it so that we could run Marvin’s Mirror through a desktop. Eugeniu assembled all of the hardware and put it together.

What was the most difficult part of the smart mirror project?

Creating Marvin’s Mirror was much harder overall than we thought it would be. The team started in November and we had a voice-controlled minimum prototype by January. It took 2 to 2.5 months of at least 40 hours a week to get it to all come together. We also needed to troubleshoot, we needed to upgrade the microphone because it was challenging to get it to work.

 

What do you enjoy most about your project?

We are happy that it works! Since we worked separately on different modules, when we assembled it all together, and it worked, that was great. The process was so grueling we didn’t realize how much team building experience we were gaining. Overall, there is so much satisfaction from seeing how much people love using Marvin’s Mirror.

What kind of support did you receive from 42?

42 supplied all of the materials for Marvin’s Mirror and gave us the space to create, computers to work on, the time needed to spend on the project and most importantly 42 provided dorms for team members that needed it. We have a real project that we can add to our portfolios for our future job searches, and we have hands-on experience that demonstrates our ability to build something successfully.

What did you learn from building the smart mirror?

We learned about new technologies, teamwork, and time management. Going from zero to a viable product and all of the challenges that come with it was a transformative experience. Most importantly, we learned that you need to identify your assumptions, realize that it’s only you that thinks it works that way than fail on those assumptions quickly so you can move along.

What future do you see for your project?

We hope it will be a good open source project for 42 students as a studying tool. It will be a great showcase example for all the guests we have at the school. Marvin’s Mirror may help gain interest in our school, and inspire someone to pursue this type of project for themselves.

published by Stacey Faucett – April 11, 2018