In this halcyon age of tech innovation, you might be fooled into believing that all of the coolest inventions and innovations are all coming from men, for men. The STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) are still largely dominated by dudes who continue to either erase or subtly push out women. But, maybe the heart of it is that they’re just super jealous of teen girl tech?
Enter: Jewelbots, which a (male) Wired writer called “the most interesting wearable [he’s] seen all year.” Their premise is super simple, both in what they do on the surface and what they look like— essentially, they’re friendship bracelets for the digital age. Unlike the complicated gadgetry found in smart watches (as well as the tech bro-baiting designs and features) Jewelbots tap into the two things that teen girls are generally most interested in: friendship (or rather, the maelstrom of love and competition surrounding friendship), and communication that transcends digital roots and turns into IRL connecting.
Stripping back the jargon, what do Jewelbots actually do? Well, kids (and adults, let’s be real) using the tech can use a smartphone app to assign colors to Jewelbots-donning friends. Then, when they’re close to each other, both bracelets start vibrating and flashing their respective friends’ colors. Additionally, the Jewelbots charms can send Morse code messages, which can even be targeted to specific friends.
But what makes Jewelbots really important lies deeper within its functionality: It was co-founded by programmers and techies Sara Chipps, Brooke Moreland, and Maria Paula Saba for the express purpose of teaching girls how to code. Jewelbots are open source, which means that savvy users can dive into the code behind the bracelets to teach their jewelry to do so much more. Some examples Chipps gives: A color alert that shows when a girl gets a new Instagram follower! A buzz when a parent is going to pick them up! Controlling drones! (Um, the future is ridiculous.)
Profiled in i-D Magazine, Metaverse Makeovers’ first product, Metaverse Nails, takes VR tech to the next level: No seriously, they’re the first company to print augmented reality products on hard, curved surfaces. Users apply press-on nails in all sorts of already funky colors and prints, and then use the company’s phone app to add digital baubles and backgrounds to digitally enhance their nails. Really though, the best way to describe what Metaverse Nails do is to see them in action:
In the interview with noted “cyborg beauty” writer Arabelle Sicardi, Metaverse Makeovers product manager Kati Elizabeth emphasizes the company’s importance in the male-dominated tech conversation: “[Techies] think we, as women and as creators, are one-dimensional. And we’ve actually created this universe of tech development, engineering, art, and business, all around this new idea of beauty they don’t have a clue about yet.”
But Metaverse isn’t content with just inventing and innovating around one product — on their list are augmented reality clothing and makeup, aka the ability to literally shine like a diamond, thanks to some physical-digital magic. Like the Jewelbots, the goal isn’t to fashionably design functional tech — it’s to marry those concepts together in an intuitive way. Form doesn’t follow function; the two are equally important, and enhance each other and thus the wearer.
At the heart of the matter, that’s what makes companies like Jewelbots and Metaverse Makeovers extra special in the tech world. Sure, there’s so much interesting stuff being produced, but what makes these companies stand out is that 1) they’re targeting and being created by people underrepresented in the industry, and 2) they’re designing and building products for their group’s underserved needs and desires, but in ways that have ramifications for other tech designs.
Jewelbots’ tech can easily be adapted for other purposes, like turning your lights on and off or getting weather reports; Metaverse’s tech opens up another world of visual communication. But both products were built out of ideas that the traditional tech world doesn’t even recognize, let alone address — and so the girls gleefully, rightfully, get them first.