Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Mariana Marcilio is a Co-founder and Wearables Director at Krafty Technogies. She is technology researcher, product designer, 3D modeler and speaker, as well as Wearables Brasil social media curator. Mariana is enthusiast of new technologies applied to daily life and she believes that wearables can be a shortcut to us becoming superhuman. She is based in São Paulo, Brazil.
What does your current job role entail?
Today I am a partner at Krafty, a Brazilian startup where we test the future. We use IoT and Artificial Intelligence to build some cool stuff. We believe that technology can change people’s lives and impact positively the world we live in.
What is your dream job or are you doing it already?
My dream was to unite my great passions: innovation, design, technology and positive impact. I met my partners in a futurism course. We wanted to join forces to work on something that made sense to our life purpose and so we created Krafty. We wanted to dedicate our time and our knowledge seeking solutions to our society and its daily problems.
I believe design is a powerful tool that exemplifies how humans can positively impact the environment which they live in through empathy. After all, innovation only occurs when there is a change of perspective. Innovating is to look through the eyes of other people and to identify solutions through their experiences, difficulties and desires.
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
I graduated in Product Desing and since then I started working in the fashion industry. I worked for some of the biggest Brazilian brands as a fashion accessories designer. However, I questioned myself about the relevance of my work to society. We launched new products every season and I began to find this consumerism very irresponsible.
I started studying the future of work and I discovered that we are going through a great change of era and not just an era of changes, as Tiago Mattos, one of the main Brazilian futurists, once said. People are gradually becoming more conscious and rethinking their habits. The trend is that consumerism (goods consumption) will transform into experiences consumerism. Nowadays it’s weird to say you’re a consumerist and that you’re proud of it. People want to travel, to invest in leisurely and to have a good time instead of accumulating products at home. Technological advances has leveraged this behavior.
The truth is that fashion industry is going through an identity and values crisis. People want products to be customized and smart, so the industry will have to adapt to that.
I tried to develop some projects that combined fashion and technology within the companies I worked for, but they had difficulty accepting it. In Brazil, we still face many barriers in the development of wearables, due high cost of components and delay in imports.
The Brazilian market is still quite immature, but we need to understand the importance and the challenges of investing in R&D projects in order to produce this kind of products. That’s why Krafty came up as a solution to this question and became our interdisciplinary experimental lab. We want to test possibilities and develop projects in partnership with companies from all over the world.
Has your degree helped in product design process for IoT and AI products?
Certainly. The college gave me a good foundation in product engineering, which allows me to develop even better and more efficient hardwares.
In Pluvi.on for example (our smart cities project) we prototyped the hardware in fab-labs using laser cutting machines, 3D printers and common materials such as acrylic. With a 3D modeling we can quickly validate possibilities and improvements in our products.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
For many years they made we believe that the greatest reward of work was fame and money. Over time I have discovered that the most precious thing we can achieve in our professional life is knowledge that comes from collaboration and fellowship.
It took me a while to realize that I did not have to do everything by myself. Usually we are told that to succeed a person needs to hide a great idea and develop it without any help from others. Our ego makes us want to receive exclusive merit for great achievements.
I even thought that I would never be a businesswoman because the bureaucracies involving a company frightened me a lot. I'd love to work with technology, but since I'm not a developer I thought it would not be possible.
So, my biggest obstacle was learning that I could count on others and that by uniting our talents and passions we could go further altogether side by side.
Today, in our team we have designers, developers, engineers and consultants, so together we have a great multidisciplinary team.
What are your projects currently working within your company?
We are beginning the development of our wearables initiatives, which I am responsible for. In parallel, I also participated in the development of our smart cities project: Pluvi.on, a low-cost meteorological station focused on real-time hyperlocal flood and meteorological monitoring that is being tested in São Paulo.
Besides that, our team travels through Brazil giving talks and workshops about IoT, wearables and smart cities.
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur and woman in AI and IoT industry?
For me, the #WomenInTech movement is inspiring, disruptive and necessary. Diversity is a fundamental part of a horizontal, inclusive and free society. I see incredible projects being carried out by women and I think technological qualification of all kind of people is urgent, after all, only by having so we will see significant advances in our world. Technology is in our daily lives, and people need to feel enough empowered to make changes they would like to see in our world. We need new perspectives to actually make innovations.
Being a woman and a businesswoman in such a sexist environment is really challenging as it is difficult to get an active voice and space. I have the great honour of working with very sensitive men who respect and recognise the importance of women’s space in technology. We fight together for a world that respects differences and we always seek benefits that diversity can bring to society.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My greatest achievement was to have left the traditional industry, which was closed and hierarchical. I have never agreed with verticalisation of functions, inflexibility and professional growth based on years of work time.
We all need a voice and we can make our work a healthy and happy environment, giving wings to our talents. I am happy to see that this movement inspires people to follow their dreams and to seek the reason they came into the world.
I believe that each one of us has a purpose. Working on something that we don’t love and don’t believe in is a waste of time. In companies, it’s important that we make people see themselves as part of a whole. This inclusion makes people care about the environment, create a sense of belonging, and grow as individuals.
What will be the key trends in the industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
In 5 years, technology evolves very fast. For example, just do a brief exercise of thinking about your cell phone and which were the top apps you used five years ago. These changes are exponential, hence, they are occurring faster and faster.
As the term itself already explains, the "Internet of Things" allows everyday objects to become smarter and more integrated, giving rise to the term IoE (Internet of Everything). The trend is, the cheaper the components, more sensors and micro controllers are spread throughout our daily use objects, allowing even greater customisation and personalisation of services.
We live in a world that collects data from all around us. For the next few years, we will get a better usage of gathered data. Highly customised services like those offered by Netflix and Spotify tend to get more accurate and integrated with new platforms. Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa is an example of what’s to come.
I also believe in individual empowerment through technology. The evolution, simplification and cheapening of 3D modelling softwares and printers allow people to develop and prototype their own products. Hence, more people will see themselves as makers.
In fashion, for example, the diffusion of softwares like Marvelous Designer broadens the possibilities of clothes’ customisation (outfits more adapted to all kinds of bodies) through 3D models and scanners by using only the mobile camera.
As for wearables, I foresee greater possibilities for personal protective equipments. Smart helmets, clothing with sensors - i.e. indicating presence of chemicals - and self- cleaning tissues are a few examples of it.
Medical industry will also benefit from it, thus heavily investing in researches. These devices will treat patients; improve the quality of life of elderly, babies and people with special needs.
In addition, I see in wearables a possible extension of the human body, in which we can enlarge our senses and our capacities, becoming a kind of "superhuman", with a sharper vision, keener hearing and sensitive touch.
Can you name any prominent women in this industry that you admire?
I find very interesting the work Danit Peleg is developing. She has pioneered the use of 3D printing in clothing. Like Danit, I believe technology will help to democratise fashion and give more independence in the creative process.
I also like the work of Brazilian-architect-and-teacher Rebeca Duque Estrada. She is currently developing interesting projects mixing HighTech and LowTech (handcrafts such as embroidery and crochet). In addition to that, she researches the development of biotypes made with Kombucha, a type of kelp tea.
Lina Lopes is another important Brazilian person in the technological empowerment of women. Lina is an artist and R&D pioneer in wearables.
1What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in wearable tech out there?
Limitations either technical or technological must not intimidate us. We need to understand the importance of connecting with others and sharing our difficulties. In the future the world will be horizontal and even more connected. The sooner we realise the importance of collaboration, the more relevant work we can accomplish together.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in AI / IoT?
A woman who inspires me a lot is the Brazilian founder of Urban3D Anielle Guedes. Her company developed materials and technologies to build houses faster and cheaper. By building low-cost housing using innovative technologies combining IoT, robotics and 3D printing to digitally-created-pre-formatted modules the project will build many popular homes around the world.
I also like the work of Simone Giertz, who mixes technology and humour. She is a Youtuber, inventor, and a robotic enthusiast who posts funny videos of her inventions.
Another person I admire is Martine Rothblatt, entrepreneur and creator of AI Bina 48 (breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture 48), "the robot with a face that moves, eyes that see, ears that hear and the digital mind that enables conversation", as well as other fantastic projects she created. I like her trans-humanist discourse that technology can help humans transpose limits imposed by biology, such as infertility and diseases. Martine is a transgender woman and helps reinforce the importance of diversity in technology.
I am very happy to note that just as the evolution of technology has been rapid, the interest of women on the subject has greatly increased. There are plenty of initiatives in my country stimulating the development of women in technology and I think this is an important step. After all, as William Gibson would say, "The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed."