This Collective of Futuristic Feminists Is Using Virtual Reality To Change the Perception of Black Women 

We've been navigating our way through digital space for sometime now. Human evolution and technological evolution have become synonymous. Even now, we find ourselves approaching the shores of foreign territory: the virtual world. And although we're unsure of the future we still find ways to be wildly enticed by it—intrigued about how technology will yet again change life as we know it, what that future looks like and our place in it.

Conversations around artificial intelligence and installations exploring the worlds of virtual reality were arguably the most avant-garde at SXSW Interactive this year than any year prior. Specifically, Hyphen-lab's NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF), a three part project consisting of speculative products, an immersive experience, and scientific research all based on radically transforming virtual reality into a world where black women, and their contributions to science, exist.

Hyphen-labs invited guests to visit their “neurocosmetology lab,” where Black women pioneer brain modulation and cognitive enhancement by embedding electrodes into extensions and braiding techniques. What would appear to be ordinary braids are transformed into transcranial electrodes that allow access to a surreal digital temple blending the physical with the virtual world. Their clients are immersed in a simulated episode where the past and future merge, inciting it's viewers to contribute to ongoing neurological and cognitive impact research studies as a way of bringing scientific exploration into public spaces.

Ultimately, these technologies of beauty are reimagined as media for scientific and social experimentation. Hyphen-Labs presented and discussed this project, while displaying a catalog of products — including HyperFace, a new kind of camouflage that aims to reduce the confidence score of facial detection and recognition by providing false faces that distract computer vision algorithms, and all-natural transparent sun-protectant specifically formulated for high melanin skin tones — thematically rooted in security, protection, and visibility. 


TravelDeJanae Evins