This Jewelry Crawls on You

Some wearers compared the jewelry to a pet or an animal. When one experienced a piece of jewelry walking on her neck, she said it felt like being licked by a dog. And many, not surprisingly, found the whole thing “creepy.”

These comments were garnered from the 17 test subjects for the “living jewelry” prototypes developed by MIT Media Labs. The organization’s  Kino Project seems set on developing jewelry that’s more than smart, it’s active. By inserting miniature (2.6 by 4 cm.) magnetized robots into jewelry, the pieces can creep across the user’s body, looking like insects covered in wallpaper. The pieces can also change shape, so in the morning one can be a brooch and by evening, a necklace.

This video shows “living” jewelry in action:


Bizarre? Well, yeah. But the authors of an MIT research paper say the idea has practical uses that make it more than a gimmick. For instance, if you add a microphone, the jewelry could become a phone that receives calls when the wearer’s hands are full. “It normally sits as a decorative brooch,” says the paper. “And when the wearer receives a phone call, it shifts close to the neck for the wearer to talk.”

Or, one test subject posited, the jewelry could learn your body preferences, and become a “wearable thermostat” which tightens your clothes when it’s cold—so it would feel less like an insect and more like your mom.

At the moment, though, Kino jewelry is just a speculative research project, so it won’t soon be crawling its way to a jewelry store near you. For now, the world will have to settle for jewelry that just stands still.

(Images and video courtesy of MIT Media Lab, Credit: Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Jimmy Day)

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JCK News Director