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Vinaya

The millennial entrepreneur who thinks human first, tech second

Sector: Futurefashion
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Kate Unsworth's favourite words are banana and martini. She is a maths grad and part-time model, who has embraced a millennial mindset for business, and also a love of technologies that are thoughtful, human and fashionable.

Kate Unsworth is the 28 year old maths graduate who became a fashion and tech entrepreneur. In the last 5 years she has set up three businesses, from fashion to wearable tech, splitting her time between London and LA, driven by a belief in the power of ideas … “Ideas will continue to evolve the more you tweak them and the more you learn.”

Unsworth is the founder and CEO of the London-based company Vinaya, a research and design house aiming to explore the relationship between humans and technology. Vitaya is described as a “Studio and Lab” (part fashion, part tech) building design-led technology products that elevate productivity, tranquility and wellbeing. They believe technology should be seamlessly integrated into our lives and driven by human-focused insights.

Unsworth has brought together a multidisciplinary product team that draws inspiration from three main pillars: minimalism, innovation and sustainability. Based at the Vinaya House, a three-story building in the heart of London’s creative hub, Shoreditch, their goal is to use technology to make us more human than less human.

Vinaya’s first product range was called Altruis, a collection of mindful wearable technology in the form of smart high-end and high tech jewellery. The FT described the range as “utterly genius, and possibly more exciting than the Apple Watch.”

“We want to empower you to take a step away from your phone so you are less distracted,” Unsworth said. “When you are in a meeting or at dinner, we want to give you a way to remain connected to the most important people but silence the noise. You set different profiles so you can filter who can make your ring or necklace vibrate. I can add it for specific people or specific words. I have my close family on my list, it connects your text, phone, email and Whatsapp. I have two secret words banana and martini, if you need me urgently, use one of the words in the subject line of an email and you will reach me.”

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A user can vary the number of vibrations, so one vibration could be your boyfriend, two vibrations could be your boss, three can be your mom, whatever a user’s priority level is. The goal it make people aware of how they spend their time and steer them away from bad habits.

“When you were only your phone ten minutes ago, it hasn’t buzzed but you refresh, it’s just a habit. We will alert you when someone important is trying to reach you so you can wean yourself off that habit,” Unsworth said.

The Altruis collection is comprised of rings, necklaces and bracelets, retailing from $345 to $450. The line is made in sterling silver base, with gold plating or rose gold plating, and zirconia ceramic stone. Sourcing production across Asia, the jewelry is made in Bangkok, the electronics in Taiwan and the stones in Hong Kong. The battery lasts a month, and charges in under 30 minutes.

Most recently Vinaya announced their latest creation: Zenta, the world’s first biometric band for emotional wellbeing.

Zenta is the world’s first designer biometric wearable that interprets your emotions, helps you understand your own behavioral patterns, and allows you to share how you feel visually, in the form of art. User data will create what Vinaya calls “biometric art” and pieces made from the technology will be featured at Art Basel later this year.

“Just like our first product Altrius, Zenta was built in order to help you re-establish ‘connection to self’,” Unsworth explains. “In such an always-on world, it’s so easy to distract ourselves with emails and articles every spare moment we have. But we should consider the impact this has on our stress levels, emotional state and our ability to self-reflect.”

Emotion technology is nothing new, just like wearable tech, it’s been around for over a decade. However Unsworth said that technology has only recently reached the point where the electronics can be shrunk down to something actually wearable. Just as The Consumer Electronics Show declared 2014 “The Year of the Wearables”, Unsworth, predicts that 2017 will be “The Year of Emotion Tech”.

“It’s literally only in the past year that the idea of ‘Emotion-sensing consumer tech’ has become feasible from a technical perspective, which puts us in a very exciting position,” Unsworth said. “We were ready and waiting on the start line with the likes of Apple, and given our ability to be fast and nimble, we’ve managed to compete with them. Zenta contains more advanced sensors than the Apple Watch, and aggregates the data in terms of emotions, rather than fitness.”

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Zenta uses the most advanced, patented, sensing technology to collect physiological cues such as heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, respiration, perspiration and temperature. This data is then cross-referenced against other data from your smartphone including your social media usage, calendar, location and more to derive actionable insights. The more you wear Zenta, the more it can build up an accurate profile of your emotional responses over time, identifying possible triggers, and spotting patterns in your behavior. These personalized insights then allow you to design your life in a way that makes the most sense for you, so as to decrease stress and increase happiness.

“Zenta provides a more complex medium to understand our own personal emotional scope, acting as a tool to visually share our feelings with others, unlocking a new potential for self-awareness and enhanced emotional intelligence,” Unsworth said. “An emotional system that is unbiased and thought provoking, Zenta could just be the next unlocking of self-awareness, self-actualization and personal development.”

Unsworth is both an artist and mathematician, and she is uniquely positioned at the intersection between these two worlds, making her the perfect person to blend these two disciplines in a unique way.

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“Growing up I was always a musician – in my mind that was unquestionably the life path I was going to take,” Unsworth said. “I became fascinated by how numbers define music: frequency, harmony, resonance, intervals, syncopation… I fell down the rabbit hole and wanted to understand more about numbers in nature. In a way, numbers allowed me to enhance my creativity. I quickly realized that math and coding could simply be another creative outlet for me: it was like adding another color to my palette.”

Given Unsworth’s story, her creation of “bio-art” makes perfect sense: This data-driven, algorithm-based artwork is generated by physiological clues. Vinaya has collaborated with New York City artist Betty Kay to transform feelings into art.

“Betty Kay’s art will be decoded into our algorithms so our users can generate their own mesmerizing ‘nebulas’ using their biometric cues,” Unsworth said. “With the help of Betty Kay’s supreme talent and intuitive understanding of color, shape and form, I really believe we can create an entirely new way for people to express themselves.”

The colors reflect your emotional state, the density of color indicates how strongly you feel that emotion, and the shapes/brush strokes give an indication of your state of being, for example, more angular artwork is created when you are stressed.

“I want to provide people with a means of creating beautiful, personalized visual reminders of how they feel at certain points in time,” Unsworth said. “Imagine buying someone a canvas and being able to say ‘this is how I felt the moment I fell in love with you’ – what a meaningful gift, to be able to actually show someone how they make you feel.”

“The name Zenta was inspired by the desire to find moments of stillness – of zen – amongst the chaos of daily life,” Unsworth said. “We shouldn’t have to escape to a beach with a piña colada, or to the Himalayas for a meditation retreat just to find peace, we need to figure out how to bring that into our daily lives in bite sized chunks. Zenta helps you do this by identifying when and why you’re at your most balanced.”

With Zenta, Vinaya aims to create a new emotional lexicon. A way of visually showing people “this is how I feel” without having to struggle to articulate it… Could this be the future of dating? To see if your Biometric-art matches with that of another?

Unsworth concludes “When you think about it, given how advanced technology is today, it’s bizarre that we still have to digitally express our emotions to one another by pushing pixels back and forth on a screen through text and email. Emotions are far more complex than pixelated words, or even emojis, can begin to convey. The existing method of emotion communication is just not doing us justice!”

Zenta will retail at $249, but can be pre-ordered for $119 only through their Indiegogo page.

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