“You have your own collection of holograms that you can wear on your real physical identity. So you're wearing an augmented selfie.”
Thea Baumann isn’t your average game designer. Based in China, she’s the founder of Metaverse Makeovers, a “glam tech” brand that uses the same augmented reality technology that powers Pokemon Go to create holographically enhanced makeup. Think Snapchat filters, except way more cutting edge.
In the company’s first app, Metaverse Nails, users are able to collect and wear limited edition artist-designed nails and then enhance them with interactive, sharable holograms on their phone screens. “You're wearing this virtual social experience,” Baumann tells The Creators Project. “You have your own collection of holograms that you can wear on your real physical identity. So you're wearing an augmented selfie.”
Augmented selfies? The future is now. Baumann is at the forefront of experimentation in the augmented reality field—launching Metaverse Makeovers in early 2015, she was one of the first to see the potential of augmented reality as a mobile app. “Augmented reality has been around for a while, but it's never been able to leap out of the laboratory onto the streets,” she explains. “It never happened until Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go arrived.”
What’s fascinating about the Metaverse Nails app is that it exists in a middle space between fashion, beauty, and game design. It also highlights the similarities between Pokemon’s “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality and the hype-driven beauty market. “It's this hybrid product and experience that converges those two spaces, digital beauty and gaming,” Baumann explains.
The Queensland University of Technology graduate became more fascinated by the potential of mobile augmented reality, so decided to move from Australia to China to be closer to the technology she was developing. Where better to launch a holographic nails app than Asia, the centre of the nail art movement?
“China is one of the biggest mobile-only cultures in the world,” she explains. “It's a hyper-connected culture and so I wanted to see what would happen if I introduced this new technology experience into its market.”
There were practical benefits, too. “China is the factory of the world, so if you want to create and make new kinds of products, China is a great place to do it,” she says.
In terms of augmented reality technology taking over our phones, Baumann thinks that her app is only the beginning. “There are going to be a lot of crossovers between social chat apps like Snapchat and WeChat with physical products and fashion,” she predicts.
Metaverse Makeovers is interested in engaging with augmented reality technology in playful ways. Realistically, it’s only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the potential of mobile augmented reality technology.
“I always wanted to create artful augmented reality experiences and put them directly into the hands of the digital generation,” Baumann says. “We're releasing hologram content to the world, and it's such an interesting time to see how it will all play out.”
You can watch Thea Baumann in our Visionaries video here:
This article is presented in partnership with IBM.