35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

The CEOs/ founders/ designers/ VPs you need to know about
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Amidst all the stories of harassment in Silicon Valley, let us bring you some women in tech cheer: our annual list of women leading the way in wearable tech, whether they're inventing new devices, founding startups or researching the impact that connected self tech is having on our bodies.

We picked 10 alumni who have previously made our lists and 10 fresh faces, most of whom aren't new to regular readers of the site but are new to this list. Then we asked some of our picks to tell us which women they are excited about in wearable tech, VR and AR right now - Adidas' Stacey Burr was namechecked a lot as a "visionary" and an inspiring entrepreneur.

This could obviously never be a comprehensive list - so tweet us with your own suggestions or add them to the comments below.

Sabine Seymour

Founder of SUPA

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Sabine Seymour is a big name in fashion tech, with 20 years of writing, researching and designing under her belt, not to mention serving as director of the Fashionable Technology Lab at Parsons School of Design where she is also an assistant professor.

Seymour's latest venture is Supa AI, which is selling limited edition smart garments, including a smart sports bra, online and soon in retail stores but focusing on partnerships with brands to create 'Supa Powered' clothing with features around sports, nutrition and gaming. "What can women in fashion tech bring? Unbiased artificial intelligence, 'female' engineering, and essential femtech products."

Read next: Sabine Seymour's new startup is going after Gen Z

Sabine Seymour's women to watch

Maggie Orth, artist, founder of International Fashion Machines

"She introduced the first fashion tech apparel, the Firefly dress, in 1998 and went on to start a consultancy."

Miro Duma, fashion investor & founder of Buro 24/7

"The first strategic fashion tech investor focusing on sustainability."

Monisha Perkash

Co-founder and CEO of Lumo Bodytech

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Monisha Perkash, CEO of Lumo Bodytech, maker of posture-correcting and fitness devices like the Lumo Lift and Lumo Back, is following much the same strategy at the company she co-founded in 2011. We're looking forward to seeing the "cutting edge" Lumo-powered Puma AI coaching device which was recently announced.

"Women outnumber men among prospective buyers of wearable technology by 8 percent," Perkash says. "But wearable technology companies are most often run by men, hire male designers, and implement technology that is most appealing to men. The result is products that don't speak innately to women. What you're losing by not including women is something critical to your business: customers."

Meet the boss: We speak to Monisha Perkash about wearable tech 2.0

Monisha Perkash's women to watch

Yasmine Mustafa, CEO ROAR for Good

"She has channeled her own personal passions towards making a safer world through smart jewelry and accessories."

Sam De Brouwer, founder of Scanadu

"She is an inspiring visionary for using technology to empower patients."

Rachel Franklin

Head of social VR, Facebook

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Rachel Franklin is currently deploying her experience as a VP and GM on The Sims at EA, plus stints at Activision and OnLive, as head of social VR at Facebook. That means working out what new social apps like Facebook Spaces, for Oculus Rift, should look and feel like and getting to grips with problems like how to deal with facial expressions and safety in virtual worlds.

When we caught up with Franklin in July she talked about the question of who VR is for and how Facebook Spaces living on our feeds might help expand that: "I think that there's still this belief that VR is a niche technology for a certain subset of people. The impetus behind trying to get non VR communication actually has more to do with changing the mindset and having people think – oh, that's for me, that's something that I can see myself doing or that looks like a joyful, fun experience."

Read this: Facebook's Rachel Franklin on Spaces, social VR and safety

Wan Tseng

Inventor and founder of Wisp

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Making the leap from thoughtfully designed student concept to connected self startup, London based Wan Tseng is making her Imperial University/Royal College of Art degree project a reality.

Wisp is a collection of smart sensual jewellery, designed to be soft and flexible while pulsing a 'touch' on the wearer's arm, simulating 'airy kisses' on the back of the neck or releasing perfume from a modular necklace. "In the next 12 months, Wisp will have two main parts," she tells us. "In our first phase, we will focus on product development and sensory experience research and in the second phase we will work on product marketing and a crowdfunding campaign."

Wisp is one of the winners of €50,000 in funding from the EU-wide WEAR Sustain competition. "I can imagine that through women's thinking, the future trends in smart products will focus more on emotional demands and user experience," says Tseng.

Wan Tseng's women to watch

Anouk Wipprecht, fashion tech designer

"She is a Dutch curator, designer and engineer who combines fashion and tech to design modern art pieces with MCU, her works are really inspiring."

Tania Boler, founder of Elvie

"Elvie's product is a pelvic floor trainer which solves not only the problems of women bladders but also sexual health. She believed that advances in sensor technology and connected devices can make women's lives better. This is what I want to do!"

Read this: Wipprecht, Boler & more wearable tech women on our 2016 list

Billie Whitehouse

Co-founder of Wearable X

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

After a series of super imaginative wearable tech concepts and one-offs, Billie Whitehouse's studio Wearable X, or We:eX, is launching its first product, the $299 Nadi X smart yoga pants. Nadi X uses haptic feedback to perfect your pose and a smart bra with similar features is also in the works, complete with custom meditation features.

What Wearable X gets right is the focus on building a lifestyle product, with a clear use case, not an ugly tech device no-one would wear in the yoga studio. "The world is overrun with screens," she told us when we met up earlier in the year. "Haptic communication has the ability to give wearers their eyes back." Look out for our impressions of living with Nadi X coming soon.

Meet the boss: Billie on the future of feeling in smart clothing

Hadeel Ayoub

Inventor of Re:Voice

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Hadeel Ayoub is the creator of one of the most interesting pieces of experimental smart clothing we've seen this year: a smart glove that can turn sign language into speech. It uses bend sensors, a gyroscope and a built-in speaker and while the final design is still in flux, Ayoub hopes it could be a real product by the end of 2018.

Like many of the women we've spoken to, she pointed to the work of the Women Of Wearables community as an exciting force in 2017. Does she think women are thriving in wearable tech right now? "Yes, I do actually."

Read this: How Re:Voice works - demo and pictures

Hadeel Ayoub's women to watch

Phoenix Perry, lecturer at Goldsmith's & Helen Leigh, founder of Do It Kits

"Because they integrate education into their tech and dedicate their products to make a difference."

Michella Hua, MadeWithGlove; Imogen Heap & Rachel Freire, Mi.Mu

"These women are pioneers in revolutionising the way wearable tech is being used and on a large scale too. Their innovative design solutions are unique and stand out in their respective fields of music, merchandise, retail and advertising."

Catherine Allen

VR producer and curator

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

"Right now we're at a lovely stage where VR is really new, yet the production equipment is fairly cheap. This means there aren't that many barriers to entry, or gatekeepers," says immersive media specialist Catherine Allen.

"I have a lot of hope for this emerging industry - I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of tech's past. Women were written out of computing history. This cannot and should not happen with VR."

Allen lead the production of two of the BBC's first VR experiences, started the VR Diversity Initiative and has also worked within AR and educational apps too. Next up, she is gearing up for a tour of creative VR work at arts venues around the UK. Allen says she wants to bring the medium to "broader audiences" and to expect more details on this in November.

Read this: We ask the experts about AR ethics, safety & ownership

Catherine Allen's women to watch in VR

Helen W Kennedy, University of Brighton and Dr Sarah Atkinson, Kings College London

"I am excited about the research that Helen W Kennedy and Dr Sarah Atkinson are doing around women in VR. They have spent years understanding women in gaming and digital media, from an industry perspective. They have a much needed long view and perspective on our role, right now."

Jane Gauntlett and Tessa Ratuszynska

"They made the incredible VR piece Intimacy together. Jane has been pioneering theatre techniques in VR for a while; it's great to see Tessa and Jane producing such groundbreaking POV work that explores VR beyond the 'empathy machine'."

Rachel Sibley

VP of product marketing, Leap Motion

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

As one of the public faces of VR/AR embodiment company Leap Motion, Rachel Sibley's work includes speaking on tech stages around the world to explain why Leap's hand tracking technology could transform these two hugely exciting platforms.

On this post-controller future, she told us in July that ultrasonic haptics are "a domain that's worthy of research" and that "if you can't interact with digital objects in a physical way it means nothing." Sibley is also a choreographer and dancer: a good fit for a company that's obsessed with how we move.

Colleen Wong

Founder of Techsixtyfour

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Colleen Wong has been selling The Gator kids watch - which we reviewed in our kids wearables big test - in stores since April but now she's taking Techsixtyfour to the next level with a round of investment. According to her, "women in tech is booming."

"I just finished my first funding round on Crowdcube raising £220k and I have hired a team now of nine flexible working staff and looking to expand my business to Europe," she tells us. "Seven out of nine of my staff are mums of young children. They are highly productive and amazing assets."

Colleen Wong's women to watch

Elin Haf Davies, founder & CEO, Aparito

"Elin is one to watch, Aparito [which focuses on patient monitoring outside the hospital] is changing healthcare."

Samantha Payne, co-founder, Open Bionics
"Samantha is another one to watch. Open Bionics is changing the lives of children with disabilities. Brilliant women all round!"

Madison Maxey

Founder of Loomia

35 women to watch in wearable tech and VR/AR for 2017

Founder of the Wareable Award winning Loomia studio, based in New York, Madison Maxey is working on the smart fabric technology to enable smart clothing to have a shot at the mainstream - beyond just the LED dress.

Loomia's latest (awesome) project for 2017, a Textile Trackpad, might not be wearable but it signals how garments and furnishings could come alive with sensors, haptics and connectivity. Maxey said: "We want to provide examples of how smart fabric could someday be in their lives."

Is there a woman in wearable tech, VR/ AR that you want to give some shine to? Let us know in the comments.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

Related stories