virtual reality nail art is here and it's insane

This Chinese company will change the beauty and wearable tech industries and wow your middle school niece as well.

by Arabelle Sicardi
16 July 2015, 8:00pm

The conversation around wearable tech feels like a corrupted mp3 file most of the time: white noise and repetition. Check out the latest FitBit collaboration, the latest smart watch, the latest "health/office" innovation that will just so happen to monitor your every move. While these innovations may nudge us closer to our inevitable cyborg future, they often lack the kind of pleasure that makes IRL worthwhile. You know, the joy of creation. Having fun to have fun, because we can -- with anyone around the world. There is, however, one company focusing on just that. Its goal is to make wearable tech a femme fantasy utopia. Enter the world of Metaverse Makeovers: the augmented reality beauty company. Beauty isn't just skin deep, it's in computer code now, too. Metaverse's first products are press-on design nails that create interactive animations when seen through an app on your smartphone. Think hearts and diamonds catapulting off your hands. We sat down with Kati Elizabeth, product manager of Metaverse, and got to know more about the beautiful digital future they have planned. 

Tell us about Metaverse.
We are a girl-led, wearable tech, augmented reality/virtual reality company based in Shanghai, Melbourne, and Hong Kong. Our first product is Metaverse Nails, which is a two-part product: the mobile app (MM Nails on iOS and Android) and nails.

How does your product work, exactly?
We use patented high definition pattern recognition that can go across any surface, which you use our app to scan. Augmented reality pops up that you can play with. We've patented 3D-games on nails, too. 

And for such a small brand, you're in three countries?
It's possible because of WeChat. The office environment is totally mobile. We work on China time, which means 24 hours a day, nonstop. If we need a neon for an exhibition -- we just had a launch at the Museum of Contemporary Art in China -- we use WeChat to talk to the neon artist in China, from Melbourne, and they make it as we chat. We do live design from across the world. All of the nails here were conceived from start to finish on our cell phones. And we do everything ourselves. Our patented printer prints at 100% quality output, every time. We collaborated with a large, multi-million dollar manufacturing firm to make a new special piece of behind the scenes technical equipment but it took so long to get a prototype. 8 months of failures and our deadline arrived. I ended up going to the firm, taking the junk prototype home and fixed it in a night with duct tape, an incense holder, and a swiss army knife. I brought it back and it looked insane but it finally worked. 

Badass. Does this printer apply only to nails? Is the Metaverse expanding soon?
We've already made some clothing and it works. We can do makeup as well. Anything you stick on your face can be augmented. We chose nails first, because nails are small, cool, accessible, and cheap. The girls back in our hometowns, in Thailand and Melbourne and everywhere else, should be able to afford it, even if they can't afford a tech-watch. 

Tech centered around girls.
For femmes. We have a huge following of queer people, actually. We're Metaverse Makeovers because our whole vision is for all different products, accessories, apps where you can completely make yourself over. You can walk into the club and look one way but you hold your phone over you and you look completely different. We call it crystal camouflage. It's for feminists and artists who like self expression. Being able to rewrite yourself is very queer! Our spokesperson, Shian, is a genderqueer transwoman. The genesis of Metaverse is our founder Tia and her best friend Shian, working together. Tia says our products are for digital babes with brains. 

That's pretty radical. It must be difficult to explain your company to people in the tech world.
It depends! Yeah. They'll look at these nails, and for some reason, they'll assume we have never thought about what comes after this. They meet us, and they see us a door with the word "woman" on it. They stare at the door and think they can walk through us. They say, "I think you missed something. Have you thought about this?" They 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 we have to be patient, and say, "Before you understand that, just look at these nails." 

This happens to a lot of women. At tech events, there's always 5 to 10 minutes of hardcore questions from all the technology men who don't believe in the product or that we have the chops to handle it. They'll tell us, "This already exists, haven't you heard of AR [augmented reality]? Your product has no value." But we have value: Preexisting AR works with flat pieces of paper and soft surfaces. We print on a hard, curved surface. Nobody in the world is doing that. We are the first. 

These guys don't want to believe that there's something fun or novel we can do with technology. They don't think tech has values for girls or for beauty. But we can do anything! We just have to take the keys to the car and figure it out ourselves.




Text Arabelle Sicardi
Photography Sam Orchard, images courtesy Metaverse Nails

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Arabelle Sicardi
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