Wearable tech embraces clothes and even nails
A Melbourne entrepreneur has 31 million potential customers for her product in China.
Thea Baumann, is CEO of Metaverse Makeovers, and her product Metaverse Nails uses girls' nails as a platform for 3D content.
"The idea came about through watching young women playing mobile games in nail bars," says Baumann.
"The next mental leap was: how would it be possible to position social games on girls' fingers, and use girls' nails as a platform for 3D content to be experienced and shared.
"I then worked on developing the tech to do this. I prototyped the experience in nail bars, and decided to further embed and commercialise Metaverse Nails amongst Asia's growing nail and mobile industries."
From nails to underwear to sporting shirts, our clothes and accessories are fast becoming part of the wearable tech space.
Baumann's product uses proprietary fashion pattern recognition. When the nails app scans the nails, it triggers a range of 3D holograms to pop out.
"This experience of wearing holograms on your fingers can then be shared to social networks in real time," she says.
"Our main focus is the Asian mobile market. In China this has been quantified as 31 million end users," says Baumann, whose company operates out of Melbourne, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Baumann says she had to set up entities in Australia, Hong Kong, and China to operate and trade within these jurisdictions. "The first two years I boot-strapped my way across China, using some initial investment from friends and family to register the brand, and begin prototyping Metaverse Nails with manufacturing partners."
Her expansion was spurred by a A$750,000 ($822,448) investment from networks such as Melbourne Angels and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia and a A$262,538 grant from Commercialisation Australia.
"I think there is always a barrier of disbelief within the business tech space about how Metaverse Makeovers' chooses to focus our creative passions and tech engineering expertise," says Baumann of the challenges faced in developing the business.
"We literally create holograms that young women can wear, share, and buy. Sometimes this is viewed by the tech sector as not a 'real problem to solve'."
One of the hardest things about the China market, she says, is keeping up with the pace.
"China's mobile internet ecosystem changes at a beyond rapid speed," Baumann says. "This requires a level of hyper agility. There's always some unforeseen new thing to address or a major new disruptive force in the mobile space."
The company sells limited-edition artist-made nails via their online shop, shop.mmnails.com. It also generates revenue through in-app sales of the designer hologram content through iOS and Android apps.
"Future business collaborations will revolve around licensing of our wearable platform, the patterns and the content. Also, licensing of our platform to third party developers, media and brands."
The company markets heavily in China through the popular messaging app, WeChat.
"Soon we are setting up a WeChat Shop which is pretty exciting for tapping China's mobile-only market," says Baumann.
"We also partner with nail business franchises in China to offer Metaverse Nails as a new add-on 3D manicure service for their customers."
Ben Moir, the co-founder of software companies Snepo and the New York-based Wearable Experiments, is one of the drivers behind Durex's Fundawear and Foxtel's AFL alert shirt.
The alert shirt allows Fox Footy viewers to feel what the players feel during a live game, while Fundawear lets personal touch be transferred from a smartphone app to a partner anywhere in the world.
He says massive opportunities exist in the wearable technology space. "It's like a global reset where design is finally getting more attention and people with a creative mind can lead for a change.
"We forgot how to make products that made a positive impact on peoples' lives and were fun to engage with. Then you have this garment and fashion industry that has been reinventing itself and releasing new products every season but until recently has been disconnected from technology.
"Two worlds collide: fashion meets technology, I think they can make a great union, but it's going to take time.
Engineers rarely understand the basic elements of design, colour, shape, texture, space and form. These are intrinsic to designing a garment, but concepts I've had to learn commando style with the guidance of my business partner Billie Whitehouse," says Moir.
"Snepo put some electronics in some lingerie, connected it to a mobile app for Durex and their agency Havas and suddenly I'm working in this new industry called wearable tech running a new global company called Wearable Experiments," says Moir.
"The truth is it's just the beginning."
He says young creative entrepreneurs have to ask themselves would they rather be designing the next bug tracking software, mobile website or working out how to embed sensors and electronics in jeans or jackets.
- Sydney Morning Herald