Jewelry is just one of the many things we use to express ourselves. From our clothes to our hair to our makeup, how we choose to present ourselves says a lot about who we are. Now, a new line of “living jewelry” developed by engineers at MIT and Stanford in the MIT Media Lab is taking self-expression to a whole new level. The collection actually started life as a group of miniature robots, but they were eventually given a newfound purpose in Project Kino, which “enables multiple presentations of self” by “changing location and reconfiguring appearance according to social context.” That definitely doesn’t sound like any other jewelry out there at the moment.

Project Kino

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Project Kino’s living jewelry is made possible by a function that’s been present in the robots since they were first developed: the ability to move across static clothing via the use of magnets. To transform them into jewelry, the robots’ designers simply covered them in a stylish fabric that could be shaped and changed out as desired, making them versatile enough to use with a number of different garments. The material over which the robots crawl is sandwiched between the two magnets and boasts an eye-catching sheath on its outer surface. The design team says that Project Kino, “explores a dynamic future in which the accessories we wear are no longer static, but are instead mobile, living objects on the body.” The jewelry is a tech-savvy approach to accessorizing and offers its wearer several innovative options in terms of both aesthetic and functionality.

Project Kino - Miniature Robot Project Kino - Climate Control

Additionally, Project Kino has the potential to act as a kind of climate control. The wearable robots can be attached to the drawstrings of a jacket and pull the hood up as soon as rain starts to fall. In another example outlined by MIT, a microphone could be inserted into the jewelry, effectively turning it into a voice-activated recording device. For the purposes of adornment, multiple living jewels can be worn at once and reconfigured on the wearer to create different types of jewelry: arrange the bots in cluster patterns to create a feature brooch, or position them in a ring around your neck as a statement necklace. If you wear certain materials, such as velvet, the robot’s movements can even create patterns on the fabric itself, transforming the garment into a work of art-in-progress. If you cover the robots in an eye-catching, geometric material that matches the shirt you’re wearing, their path can create an optical illusion as the two patterns cross each other.

Project Kino Project Kino - Pattern Etching

Although the robots are currently quite large, their designers hope that they’ll be slimmed down as their concept and materiality are refined. Once they’re small enough, the developers explain, “With the addition of kinetic capabilities, traditionally static jewelry and accessories will start displaying life-like qualities, learning, shifting, and reconfiguring to the needs and preferences of the wearer, also assisting in fluid presentation of self. With wearables that possess hybrid qualities of the living and the crafted, we explore a new on-body ecology for human-wearable symbiosis.” However, when new products like these hit the market, it can never really be predicted where they will end up and how they will be used. Nonetheless, the possibilities for Project Kino are definitely endless!