What is a smart mirror and why do so many companies think you want one?

CES 2017 wasn’t the year of the smart mirror – but it was hard to ignore the things lurking about around the edges of the show. The phenomenon has been around for a while now, mostly as concept or Arduino-driven DIY projects, but manufacturers have clearly seen the rise of the smart home as an opportunity to really push the concept toward mainstream acceptance.

Introduced at the show in Vegas the other week, Griffin’s Connected Mirror sums the space up pretty well: interesting, unnecessary and largely prohibitively expensive. But when the phone accessory manufacturer decided to go full-on into the smart home space with a connected toaster and coffee maker, it chose a $1,000 mirror as its hub.

The thinking is pretty straight-forward. Smart homes need a hub – so why not make it the (theoretically) first thing you look at in the morning. While you’re brushing your teeth and otherwise admiring your beautiful visage in the morning, it’ll serve you up your notifications and the weather in a manner we’re still referring to as “Minority Report-like,” even though the movie is 15 years old and a lot of other actually technology has come along since.

And, in the case of Griffin’s offering, it’ll also let you know when your coffee and toast are done.

HiMirror, a product of the same umbrella company that gave the world XYZprinting, is, unsurprisingly, a more affordable take on the space at $259. If the Griffin is a smart TV, the HiMirror is more of a set top box in that it’s smaller, cheaper, and likely not designed to be held onto for the same length of time most of us hold onto bathroom mirror, meaning you can afford to go out and upgrade every few years or so.

It also features an element of beauty tech that we’ve seen from some entrants in the smart mirror space like Panasonic, which was decidedly ahead of the curve in when it first showed off its makeup-adding smart mirror back in 2014, a feature that has since been added to smartphones from companies like Huawei.

For Panasonic, the technology has largely been proof of concept – something designed to get journalists at shows like CES excited and create some good b-roll of the show’s wackiest gadgets. And really, up until the last year or so, this has largely been the realm of the smart mirror.

And really, it’s hard to see it extended too far beyond that for the foreseeable future. I’ve already gotten a number of smart mirror pitches in a deluge of post-CES emails, but have yet to hear a truly compelling reason to take the space too seriously – particularly given the price barrier for picking up a system that doesn’t seem like a big hunk of plastic. It’s a particularly tough barrier in the wake of hubs like Amazon’s Echo, which have found a low-priced back door into the smart home.