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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, hail me an Uber!

Touchscreen Smart Mirror
OK, so if this isn’t real, it should be. San Francisco native Ryan Nelwan is causing a stir on Reddit, with a post garnering nearly 5,000 comments in two days. He’s also getting a lot of action on YouTube with over 800,000 views in just four days. How’s he doing it? With a video that purports to demo a touchscreen interactive mirror he and a friend built from scratch. You might not be all that excited about a bathroom mirror that can play movies and hail Uber cars, but it looks as if some people are, especially women with very curly hair that spend an hour a day straightening it (you’ll have to read through a few hundred comments on the Reddit thread to find that one).

The mirror in question appears to measure about 40 inches diagonal in a 16:9 format. Widgets surround the content area of the screen. Nelwan, who goes by the Reddit username “nucklsandwich,” does an admirable job demoing the apps supported by his mirror in the 3-and-a-half-minute video. He shows the music app, where volume is controlled by placing two fingers on the mirror and sliding them up and down. When he brings up a video, he is able to move the video popup around the mirror (as you might do to get it out of the way while shaving) and again adjust the volume with two fingers. Another interesting app demo shows him adjusting temperature via a Nest interface by dialing clockwise or counterclockwise with multiple fingers.

It’s when Nelwan calls up the Uber app, requests, and then quickly cancels a ride that we begin to wonder … First off, if you’re still in the bathroom getting ready, it’s not a great idea to request an Uber ride. If you’re five minutes late to meet the driver, you can be hit with a late or no-show fee and in some test cities, even be charged your city’s per minute fee for every minute the driver waits after two minutes (even if the driver gets there early). Second, and here’s where the Reddit community starting going all, um, Reddit over it, the headshot and name “John”  of the Uber driver who quickly responded to Ryan’s hail are the same as used by Uber in a tutorial showing how the service works.

In subsequent contact with Nelwan, he told Digital Trends, “The reason why it’s John on the screen is because that’s what you get back from Uber’s server when your app is in sandbox mode. The app that I’ve created on Uber’s platform is in sandbox mode for the sake of making this demo. So the response I got back in the video demo is a driver named “John” with that profile picture driving a Prius.”

This being Reddit, comments were flying about how the touchscreen mirror is a hoax or a fakeout. One of the common complaints was that he was using a green screen. Nelwan addressed the green screen question with another short video posted on Twitter. In the video, he shows that the green is just a reflection from his glasses.

We found Ryan Nelwan on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and reached out for comment. He responded on Facebook and answered the question about “John, the Uber driver.” On his Twitter account, he answers some of the questions people have raised about his video and his touchscreen mirror. Because similar mirrors have been shown before, we’re inclined to believe his is real, not only but in part because of his background and current position as an iOS engineer at Swipe Lab. Our questions are answered, especially now that we know about “John”.

Updated on 5-2-16 by Bruce Brown: Ryan Nelwan provided the answer to the question about the demo showing Uber driver John. 

Article originally published on 04-30-2016.

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