It’s been one-hundred-years since U.S. currency featured the face of a woman. One. Hundred. Years. If you aren’t a scholar of American fiscal history, you might not be aware of that single instance either. So for context, in the 1880s and 1890s, Martha Washington was featured on a bill alongside George Washington. Said bill was discontinued.
Though this doesn’t seem set to change anytime soon, augmented reality app, Notable Women, might just have a solution. Seeking to end the omission of women on banknotes, the Notable Women project has seen the creation of an AR app that turns any U.S. bill into an opportunity for users to learn about some of the women who have shaped U.S. history.
Notable Women is an initiative helmed by former Treasurer of the U.S. Rosie Rios, made with some friends from Google Creative Lab and Nexus Studios. The innovative project was inspired by two key thoughts: “What if we didn’t have to wait to see women on U.S. currency?” And, “What if anyone could learn about women who made U.S. history in a place where they’ve historically been left out?” That’s how the project got started!
A spokesperson for Notable Women tells us that it was during a presentation at Google about her journey as Treasurer of the United States that Rosie met a small group of women who were excited by her ongoing mission to celebrate historic American women — and the role technology could play to bring it to life. Rosie and her team used the Teachers Righting History database, a collection of almost 250 women that the American people recommended to appear on actual U.S. currency for inspiration, and their selections include the inimitable poet, writer and activist Maya Angelou to education-dedicated and life-affirming Helen Keller.
The AR technology works with $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 US dollar bills. The user opens the app, holds up a note, and watches it come to life. The spokesperson says, “A lot of careful attention was given to the illustrated portraits both on the website and in AR – matching textures, colours and lighting to make the experience of seeing bills featuring notable women feel as real as possible,” adding that attention to detail went as far as the creation of a custom currency-inspired typeface called “Notable.”
The app is available now on the the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Bonus fun fact: to even be considered as worthy of being plastered over an actual, real life US note, you have to be dead.