Ed Sanders / Most Contagious
Google's head of marketing on Project Glass reveals the strategy for its first foray into wearable computing, ahead of his Most Contagious NYC appearance on December 11
After awarding Google Glass the Technology award at Most Contagious 2012, we're pleased to announce Ed Sanders, Google's head of marketing for Project Glass, will be speaking at Most Contagious NYC on December 11. Below, our conversation with Sanders, reprinted from Issue 35.
Join us at Most Contagious to hear how the platform has progressed after a year, and, later, in our installation, get hands on with some advanced Glass applications from some of the most interesting members of the Explorer program.
Contagious: How did Project Glass come about and why is it important to Google?
ES: Google has a philosophy of thinking big and trying to solve complex problems. One of the insights we have is that it's really important that tech is there when you need it, but gets out of the way when you don't.
For us, Glass is a new wearable tech that goes beyond what you can do with a smartphone.
We all know how wonderful human interactions can be. When technology helps bring that interaction close to you, hands-free, and with the people you really care about, it becomes even more compelling.
Contagious: How important is voice as part of Google Glass and this type of technology?
ES: In Glass, voice is extremely important because it helps put you back in the moment. You don't feel like you're interrupting what you're doing. It makes life easier, quicker, and more seamless. It's liberating. Once you've done it you feel like you don't want to go back.
Contagious: Why does Google care about putting people 'back in the moment'?
ES: There is this trend of people being buried in screens, and philosophically we thought about what would happen if you could actually free people's hands and eyes? It was a conscious design decision to put the display above the eye. So when you try the device for the first time it's a very intimate, personal moment. You see the things all around you and you look up at the display when you need it.
It allows people to be back in the moment rather than buried in the technology.
Contagious: Do you think voice helps Glass feel more natural and provides a more human way of interacting?
ES: The human element of Glass is one of its key pillars. That decision to put the display above the eye means that if two people are wearing Glass and having a conversation, they can make more eye contact. It's not an interruptive, distracting device that blocks vision. You have more eye contact with people around you because you're not looking down, you're looking up.
Contagious: So technology like Glass helps erode the divide between the physical and digital world?
ES: We don't want to be buried in something that feels burdensome. A lot of technology runs the risk of being interruptive, or hard to work and navigate. It feels heavy. Technology has always been designed to make things easier.
One of the things that Glass does, or tries to do, is bridge that divide between the real world and the life that people are living online. Instead of burdening it with computing, free it up with technology.
If you could succeed in getting technology out of the way, then the bridge between the physical world and the digital world would dissolve.
Contagious: Are you addressing the privacy and security concerns people have expressed with Glass, such as the worry about wearers being able to secretly record or take photos of others?
ES: It's something we're very much listening to. It's interesting when you see new technology being developed and the social norms that develop around them.
Anything that's new is bound to be disruptive. I don't think that Glass will be different in that way. We saw that with cellphones, they looked different. But then they got smaller.
I think the same thing will happen with wearable technology like Glass. It's not up to us to make the judgment. We certainly can't do that until we get the device into the hands of people and we see how they react.
When people use new technology social norms will develop. Technology has always been disruptive.
Different forms of technology naturally increase people's ability to communicate with each other. I'm sure we all share stories of how email started out being brilliant and has since become a burden. At Google we're always looking for ways to solve those issues.
At the core of Glass is humanity, and the way people interact with each other. If we can develop disruptive technology that makes that interaction easier and faster and better and creates more of a human connection, then we think that's something worth investigating.
Contagious: How do you see brands being able to use Glass and other wearable technology? Where do you think the marketing possibilities lie?
ES: It's a little early to say. We're trying to give this out to people so that brands and marketers can help us shape the vision through the eyes of the user.
We've had a couple of what we call Glass Foundries, events where we build on developer insight to develop ideas. We had two: one in San Francisco, one in New York. Opening this up beyond Google is really important because great ideas come from everywhere.
For example looking at cooking instructions with Glass, when to add the cream in a recipe. That came out of one of the Foundries and was something we hadn't thought of exploring. It's a fabulous idea that's applicable around the world: make something easier and improve people's lives.
Contagious: What do you see as the future for Glass?
ES: We're on the first step of a really long journey.
Glass is a different approach to wearable technology and we think this is the next big step in the way people interact. And it's really exciting to see people have such strong opinions on what we're doing.
You've probably seen or heard about the 'If I had Glass' Explorer programme. It's very much in line with where we are with the product: we're at the explorer phase ourselves.
From a creative perspective we welcome people's ideas on where Glass is going and what Glass could be used for, not only from a brand and marketing angle, but also to make the world a better place, to make the sorts of technology that improve people's lives.
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