Investors in the startup include some familiar names, with Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge leading the round. Others putting in funding include former Index partner Robin Klein, Carmen Busquets, Playfair Capital, Michael Birch and several others.
Can the problem of tech gobbling up too much of your attention be fixed by buying more technology? Vinaya, a U.K. startup which started out back in mid 2013 and is now announcing its first full product launch, fleshing out its business philosophy and detailing $3 million in seed funding — reckons so.
Vinaya’s mission: to apply psychology research to the tech product creation process to try to build products that are more sensitive to human habits and help promote emotional wellbeing by, for instance, enabling more controlled use of tech. Or developing tech that’s sensitive to the user’s mood so, presumably, could dial down notification pings if its owner seems stressed.
Vinaya is setting up what it dubs a “research lab” aiming to feed insights about the brain/human habits into its product design process. The newly announced seed investment will be going towards establishing this lab, as well as scaling up manufacturing of the first product line, and product dev work on its next product (still in stealth).
“We realized there was a bit of a disconnect between the way technology was built in the startup culture and the way that wearables are built, in particular, but also digital products and the actual academia, the scientific research, that should go into the development of these products,” says co-founder and CEO Kate Unsworth.
“From what I’ve seen… normally what happens is somebody has a bright idea that resonates with them and then they go back and post-rationalize it and say ok let’s find the science to prove it. Maybe every now and again it’s the other way around but I think typically in these kind of mental health and wellbeing type products there seems to be a real disconnect between the real research that’s going on in academia or in research institutions and then actually finding the applicable means of getting that to the consumer.”
We live in a world where we’re expected to be online to some extent and
what we’re trying to do is make that level of connectivity more
The startup, previously known as Kovert Designs, is not talking too publicly about the full scope of its plans, but Unsworth says the vision is to apply data-analysis to “brain activity and psychology to try to understand how people are feeling and as a result of that the types of products that we can build to help them feel better”.
One future product, codenamed Zephyr, will be a smart home device, although the initial product is a range of high end jewelry wearables, called Altrius.
Items in the Altrius wearable collection are made from high end materials including sterling silver, gold plating and so on, with the connected tech embedded into the ‘stone’ on individual pieces. The initial three wearables are: a connected ring, bracelet and necklace, priced at £220, £250 and £275 respectively.
The first Altrius collection is launching in pre-order now for shipping
in time for the holiday — although the first version of the product was
also soft launched in a limited run last Christmas. The overall aim with
the wearables is to help “hyper connected” tech users stop digging
their phone out of their pocket every few minutes to see if they have
any new messages.
The first collection is designed for women but the plan is to expand with a male line in future, according to Unsworth. Users can choose which item most suits them and could choose to wear all three (for full #fashion) but there’s no tech-based reason to do that; only one at a time will link to the companion iOS app to function as the notification filter.
As with other notification wearables (e.g. Apple Watch) or existing connected jewelry (e.g. Ringly) the idea with Altrius is the jewelry vibrates for custom notifications (these are configured via the app) so the user can set their own parameters for when they absolutely need to be alerted to an incoming missive.
Allowing them to in theory leave their phone in their bag/pocket for longer. (Of course they do still need their phone nearby/on their person as the jewelry links up to it via Bluetooth.)
One feature of Altrius which Unsworth flags up as “novel” vs other similar notification wearables is a feature called ‘secret words’, which allows users to select and provide a specific keyword to particular people such as key colleagues, for instance so those people can specifically override an Altrius user’s do-not-disturb settings when they really need to contact them.