When we think about using technology to fight climate change, the first thought tends to be scientists inventing incredible machines that suck carbon out of the atmosphere. We rarely think about how tech can be used to change our behaviour, influencing us to make better choices in order to fight the climate crisis.
Well, Kelly Vero is here to do just that.
Kelly is a creative badass; a digital disruptor, a writer, and a game developer. We caught up with Kelly and her virtual lips, to understand how she’s using technology and games to change the way we interact with fashion, the environment, and each other.
You’re developing a game around circular economy; can you tell us more about that?
It’s a video game that I’ve felt needed to be made for quite some time. The entire process of progression within the game is built on a circular system.
What the game enables you to do is think a little bit more about the choices you’re making.
It happens to be centred around the fashion industry; importantly, what happens to our clothes, how do they go into landfill, and do they even need to go into landfill.
So, it’s about the lifecycle of the garment and about “is it better to buy luxury or is it better to go to the high street?”
The person I’m making this game with is doing it for her PhD, and she’s very interested in consumer behaviour. She wants this game to be able to change people’s mindsets about the consumption of garments, and what goes into that whole process.
How do you think this game might be able to do that?
One of the biggest problems that we hope to tackle with the game is helping people understand that they don’t have to spend their hard-earned disposable income on fashion.
Each time you buy something cheap, you get something that’s cheap. It’s not going to last very long, so you may as well pee it down the bloody drain.Kelly Vero
All of the clothing is currency, so rather than thinking about things in terms of pounds and pence, we’re thinking about things as t-shirts or pants or shoes, so each time you throw your clothes away, it’s like you are frittering your money away.
We need to look at the end user rather than looking at the high street, because the high street’s dead – it’s over.
Nobody’s going to want to buy from Zara or H&M in those volumes again, after what’s happened during the pandemic. They systematically failed to provide us – the end consumer – with what we really want.
What the pandemic has actually taught us is that our behaviour can be changed.Kelly Vero
The distinct nuances of behaviour in purchasing or sharing things like clothing or food vary, but almost always come back to cultural practices.
In Switzerland, where I live, we’ve had a circular economy here for fifty years already. We’ve got a massive second-hand clothes market, and clothing is constantly going through the motions.
In China, second-hand, vintage etc is associated with not being able to afford something or having something (and someone else’s karma etc) foisted upon you.
I think we have to take into account the supply chain, because that features heavily in the waste culture – particularly within fashion.
I’ve designed a couple of technology platforms where we’ve been able to take garments and reverse engineer them using CT technology.
So, we’re effectively trying to build “phygital” systems that allow us to look at the physical nature of a garment, through digital eyes.
So, gamifying a digital baseball cap, for example, and allowing people to try that out for a really longtime on Zoom or GoogleMe, before they buy it.
So, you’re saying that people can test out these garments, wear them digitally for a while, before buying the actual product?
Yeah, like this lipstick I’m wearing on our Zoom call. I really like wearing it, so I would eventually get to the point where I think, “you know what? I’m just going to buy myself a lipstick that’s this colour”.
If I want to try out a capsule wardrobe for an entire season before I buy it, I should be able to do that.
There are companies like One Earth and Zeekit who are making really big strides in AR try-on, so we can try stuff on and see how it suits us, using AR filters on our phone.
It’s like dating your clothes; we want to spend time with them before we decide it’s a purchase we want to invest in.Kelly Vero
How else can gaming be used to change people’s behaviour, whether it’s in terms of being more climate conscious or any other sort of change?
Games give us an ability to do a number of things. It’s a gateway to new platforms and experiences; new places for us to go to in our minds.
We can educate people about climate change, and encourage them to choose a climate neutral brand, through a video game.Kelly Vero
For example, games are one of the most exciting places to do branding. If you think about people who are playing games eight hours a day – they’re not seeing any brands – why?
What other ways do you think we can use tech to have not just an environmental impact, but a social impact as well?
I’m working with a company in Berlin on a project called Fridai. Fridai is a voice assistant and really, it’s a Google engine for gamers.
What we’ve found with Fridai is that it’s become much more useful for some disabled users, where previously – due to the way consoles are designed – gaming was pretty inaccessible. Fridai is providing a suitable platform for wider inclusivity.
Blockchain is another powerful technology with plenty of applications, and is increasing in utility all the time.
One of the things I did last year with the Ethical Fashion Initiative is to put ‘Cotton Governance’ into blockchain, so you can trace your shirt back to the field that the cotton grew in.
Wherever the cotton field is – whether in Africa or South America or wherever – it’s identified by Cotton Organic USA. That actual identification of the cotton field itself, authenticates the organic nature of the cotton.
It can also be used to protect garment workers; all wages paid by the supplier can be tracked and then compared to the living wages of the country.
From the perspective of brands, they can ensure a transparent supply chain by choosing only suppliers who use blockchain technology.
We should be using blockchain to effectively timestamp and enable us to have that provenance on whatever it is we buy or sell; whether it’s digital fashion, food – whatever.
There’s an empathy deficit amongst society at the moment. We know that empathy is like a muscle that needs a regular workout. Can tech help with that?
Many victim support groups have found it useful to use VR, to allow them to understand how victims feel.
Technology is already being used for good, and I do believe it has huge potential to do so much more.Kelly Vero
There’s a massive research programme enabling people who are currently neuro-normal to work with Alzheimer’s sufferers through a game. That game is collecting memories and having discussions about those memories afterwards. It’s quite beautiful.
Assuming we’re going to remain in a socially-distanced world to a lesser or greater extent, how do you think tech can be used to enrich and deepen our connections with each other?
I wrote about this in my book, Prince of Tokyo, where you have an opportunity to go on a holodeck and you meet with friends around the world, using volumetric capture.
We’re starting to be in that space, where we can do the volumetric version of Yahoo chatrooms that we did in 1997.
The tech is a bit crappy right now, but it allows me to have an actual face-to-face conversation with you standing in front of me.
So, I can actually see the cardigan you’re wearing, and I can reach out and potentially touch it using haptic technology if I wanted to.
All this technology is no longer in the future – it’s here and happening; it’s so exciting!
You can find out more about what Kelly’s up to here
If you’re in the Tech for Good space, and want to develop a purpose-driven strategy for your brand, we’d love to hear from you.