By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT
When one thinks of new technology, a vision of Silicon Valley pops up. But here in Oxford, Mississippi, is a company called Myra Mirrors that invented an operating system that enables people to interact with mirrors.
Two University of Mississippi students, Pontus Andersson and Sam Bertolet, founded Myra Mirrors two and a half years ago with a goal of making premier smart mirrors.
“The scope of the project shifted over time to not just have smart mirrors – not just something to have in bathrooms, but rather an Apple-esque product that’s an all-in-one device that you put on your counter and turn it on. You don’t have to rebuild your bathroom or hang anything. It’s just an all-in-one smart device and you’re done,” said Sam Bertolet, the CEO of Myra Mirrors.
Bertolet had attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January. There he introduced the Reflective Assistant, a platform and operating system for smart mirrors beyond current functions.
“Our design philosophy is that it just works,” Bertolet said. “We wanted to have something that’s simple and easy to use so we came up with a beautiful design and worked for a long time building it. We’re about six months from launching the hardware.”
Bertolet was quick to distance the product from the smart house merchandise.
“I’m a millennial and I can’t stand the, ‘Oh, you bought a smart piece of equipment for your home’ mentality. And we think this is a big mistake, we think, with other competitors in how they’re approaching things,” he said.
He explained that the mirrors are AIO (all-in-one) devices that one can plug in without “a fancy setup.”
“It works right out of the box,” he said.
There is a knob encoded on the side of the device, much like the Apple Watch input method, to prevent finger prints from dirtying the product. The operating system works for augmented reality meaning there is no camera devices embedded in the mirrors for people’s privacy in bathrooms.
“That being said, we can put it on any device we want to,” Bertolet said.
The company’s first two mirror models are a 10-inch makeup mirror and a 27-inch wall mirror, but its main draw is its operating system, ReflektOS. With a licensing fee, the developers can use its proprietary software to create new applications that can be ported onto any compatible surfaces.
Bertolet said, “We created our own OS (operating system) from the ground up and we wanted a developer environment so people can make facets for the device and we accidentally made this developer tool chain where devs can create anything for augmented reality on our platform – so we inevitably made an OS for AR (augmented reality) devices instead of just our mirrors.”
The company is launching a consumer line of hardware while licensing out its software to OEMs as well as a custom open source approach so people could download the features onto any mirrors they like.
Bertolet said, “A lot of Myra Mirror’s business models with the software are to get it into the hands of developers to encourage augmented developer ecosystems.”
He said that its overall goal is to stimulate and boost the tech industry in the South with Myra Mirrors.
This futuristic company is thoroughly Mississippi-made. Its CEO, Bertolet, grew up in Tupelo and had been a student at both Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. He had met the company’s co-founder, Pontus Andersson, in Jackson, too.
Bertolet said, “I’ve been in Mississippi most of my life. I’ve also worked with technology for most of my life, since I was about eight years old, so it always really interested me. I love the tech industry. I used to think there was no hope for tech industry here in Mississippi and now I’m staying in the state for as long as I can because I want to bring more tech industry and innovation here.”
The start-up company was supported by Innovate Mississippi, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to drive technology-based innovation and economic development for the state of Mississippi.
For 15 years Innovate Mississippi has coached and connected startups with advice, a group of mentors who will assist on one-on-one basis, and a network of Angel investors who will hear pitches from startups raising money. Innovate Mississippi has worked with over 1,300 startup and helped them raise over $173 million in capital where those companies later created over 6,000 jobs.
The organization connected with Myra Mirrors through Entrepreneurial Support staff at the University of Mississippi. Myra Mirrors first participated in Innovate Mississippi’s New Venture Challenge Pitch Competition. After that event, the organization reached out to the startup and has been working with them since.
“Myra is a company that has not only developed a software solution other smart mirror companies don’t address, they have also developed a hardware solution. The founders were students who saw a void in the market and developed protectable solutions to meet the needs of consumers. That is a hallmark of a good idea, one that solves problems or fixes a void in the marketplace,” said Tasha Bibbs, director of entrepreneurial development at Innovate Mississippi.
Bertolet believes that support provided by organizations like Innovate Mississippi helps foster a more technology-forward environment within the state.
He said, “There are a lot of challenges and barriers in Mississippi. For example, if I go to California there’s a specific process I can do to find good programmers and workers. Not only has that but having a Computer Science degree from anywhere in California showed that you’re a good engineer in your science. As much as I love Ole Miss and State, I don’t think the academics are performing high enough yet. You have to be inside a good, reliable circle before you know anybody who is capable of this tech or that design.”
“But, with that being said,” Bertolet continued, “Mississippi is filled with such potential that there is ever-changing education. There’s the coding base camp in Water Valley where you can go to high school and then college while getting enough Computer Science education to get a job. The cool thing about working in Mississippi is seeing this dynamic shift in industry. If I go to California, there’s not a lot I can do to help on a political level but with Myra Mirrors having success I can put a lot of effort into working alongside companies like C Spire and the bigger tech giants to see what we can do for Mississippi.”
The company is poised to make an impact in the tech industry outside of Mississippi, too, as Bertolet shared that they have been asked to attend more tech expo in eight different countries as well as having established strategic partnerships from attending the Consumer Electronics Show last month.
Either way, Bertolet is ready to make good on one of his biggest goals with Myra Mirrors: boost and grow the tech industry in Mississippi and the South.
For more information, be sure to visit myramirrors.com.
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