• Andy Gordon

Recognising Exceptional Women Entrepreneurs

LINDA FRANCO


Linda is the Co - Founder and CEO of Machina, a wearable technology company that creates clothes that extend the functionality of the human body. Linda has been named one of Forbes Mexico’s 30 promises under 30, featured as one of Intel’s MakeHers, Google’s Women Tech Makers, and has given talks at the Women 2.0 events in San Francisco, Explorers Festival Lisbon, Wired London, Smart Content Conference Seoul, among others. Machina has been featured in the Washington Post, BBC, CNN, Vice, Hypebeast, and more.


An out-of-body-experience is the feeling that the mind is separated from the body. It happens due to psychological and neurological factors such as brain trauma, sensory deprivation and the consumption of hallucinogenic drugs. However, virtual reality also offers a similar experience, transporting the mind into scenarios that only exist in the digital terrain while the body remains anchored to the physical world. This ability allows for fascinating experiences such as transforming oneself into a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse, which can increase empathy with the animal world. However, it also represents one of the major problems faced by technology adoption, since virtual dissociation between body and mind is often associated with dizziness and vomiting.


Some strategies to solve this problem include dials which regulate the intensity level of the virtual experience in line with the user’s tolerance. However, the young Linda Franco proposes an opposing approach: instead of reducing the intensity, she proposes increasing the body’s connection with the virtual environment in order to minimize the feeling of separation. To do this, wearable technology is used to record and transmit information about body movements while at the same time providing physical feedback to increase the bond between body and mind. Based on this innovation, Franco has been chosen as one of the Innovators Under 35 Latam 2017 winners by the MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition


Franco has created OBE , a jacket with sensors, which has been designed more as an item of clothing than as a peripheral device. The idea is that its attractive design and portability will make consumers want to wear it all the time, and not only have it at home as if it were another game console controller. The accelerometers, piezoelectric textiles and network of vibration motors can be programmed for use beyond VR. "The possibilities are endless," Franco says.


Virtual reality is not Machina’s only focus. The company, which was started in 2012, became known for another one of its products in 2014, the MIDI Jacket, which allows the creation of music using sensors that pick up body movements. To arrive at this product, Franco recalls that she had to start by "completely understanding the way the technology is used and combining that with an in-depth understanding of the fashion industry". The MIDI Jacket was included in Wired magazine's selection of the most beautiful wearable tech for its well-thought out design.


Now Franco's company has gone a step further and uses the, further perfected, technology developed for this jacket, for wider applications, from VR, video games, body-piloted drones, to potential sports and health purposes. In the case of OBE, Machina offers a kit to software developers to give them the possibility to create new uses for their garment. To date, there are two universities that are collaborating with Machina so that their students can learn how to develop new applications.