Jewelbots surpassed its $30,000 crowdfunding goal in the first 19 hours. In the past five days, the campaign has pulled in over $70,000 from nearly 800 backers, and it still has 25 days to go.
“When MySpace was a big thing, knowing HTML and CSS was cool, and now that Minecraft is big, kids want to make awesome models so they’re coding in Java,” says Jewelbots co-founder Sarah Chipps. “We’re trying to reverse engineer that with Jewelbots.”
The relatively simple friendship bracelets are equipped with four LED lights and a button. They pair with the Jewelbots iOS or Android app and are designed to hold a charge for three days.
Girls can add their friends to different friend groups designated by color, and the bracelet will light up with that color when their friends are nearby. They can also send “secret messages” in the form of vibration sequences.
So if you’re a thirteen-year-old girl sitting in a classroom where you’re not allowed to use your phone, you can send two buzzes to Stacey so she’ll know to meet you in the hallway in the middle of class.
The bracelets are completely functional out of the box, but the idea is that girls will want to personalize them by using the Arduino IDE to program specific commands — like when I get a Facebook message from the boy I like, buzz once and flash blue, but when Mom texts, buzz three times and flash red.
Encouraging pre-teen and teenage girls to publicly color code their friends sounds a bit problematic, and Chipps acknowledges that making any online community bully-free is a challenge.
“We talked to 200 girls between the ages of 9 and 14 about what interests them, and universally what we heard is that friendship is huge to them as they’re coming into their own and deciding who their tribe is,” Chipps says.
The bracelets retail for $65 each and will ship in the Spring of 2016.
In the meantime, Jewelbots will be working on building a mesh network of wearables to boost signal strength without relying on cellphones, as well as developing additional educational wearables for teens.