Q&A with Google Glass Designer: Isabelle Olsson

Q&A with Google Glass Designer: Isabelle Olsson

We chat with Isabelle Olsson, Google Glass Designer, about new possibilities, women in design, and that one piece of technology that everyone is buzzing about.

Why will people want to buy Google Glass?

The industrial designer wearing her chops. Photo via Isabella Olsson.

We love how technology enriches our lives but sometimes it distracts us and takes us out of the moment. It might sound like a paradox, but we believe that the closer you bring technology, the more it gets out of the way. Glass was designed with the goal of creating a new form of wearable technology that is much more intuitive, immediate and intimate than what we are used to. Whether you’re looking for an answer to a question, directions to a new restaurant, sharing your daughter’s first steps without losing the moment or translating a phrase into another language, people will want Glass because it helps you do all those things in a very simple, hands-free way.

Glass is a product you wear, so with that in mind, we designed it to be incredibly light and flexible to fit different styles and preferences. It comes in a variety of flattering colors and can be transformed into a pair of shades or prescription glasses.

I can already see how excited our Explorers (the first people to actually use Glass out in the world) are to use and wear Glass, but this is just the beginning. Glass will evolve over time, both in terms of what it can do and how it appears.

Although applications to be a "Glass Explorer" are now closed, did you receive a wide variety of entries? How will they use the device if they’re chosen to participate?

Our Explorer Program started last year at Google’s I/O conference when developers signed up to be the first people to try Glass. They've really embraced the Explorer spirit—the spirit of someone who’s ready to jump in, get their hands dirty and take on a challenge.

In February, we opened up the Explorer Program by asking people across Google+ and Twitter what they would do if they had Glass. We were looking for bold, creative individuals to become our next wave of Explorers—and wow, did we get them.

Our Explorer program allowed us to engage with a diverse range of people who are eager to use Glass in a variety of ways. We wanted to know what people would do "if they had Glass" so we asked them. The response was incredible and as a result we have 2,000 developers and 8,000 other non-technical folks who are getting an early look at Glass. From an R&B singer in Brooklyn to a beer judge in San Francisco, from a commercial airline pilot and father of two in Michigan to a nutritionist in Virginia, we saw applications from people across the US who wanted to see how Glass could help change their lives. And just yesterday, we saw a Glass Explorer sharing footage of the protests in Turkey which was extremely moving and powerful. This is another example of how technology can promote freedom and I appreciate that Glass is enabling that.

See Google Glass, designed by Isabelle Olsson, onstage at Dwell on Design.

How is Google Glass already opening up new technology?

We’ve partnered with many groups to create Glassware, a host of applications specifically designed for Glass, including Twitter, The New York Times, Facebook, and Evernote to name a few. Additionally, many Glass Explorers aspire to create cutting edge technologies within their areas of expertise, health-care, nutrition, fashion, architecture, design, tennis, golf, whatever field they might be in. Part of what’s so exciting about Glass right now is that it’s just the beginning and I can’t wait to see what our Explorers will do with it.

Isabelle, what is your personal experience in terms of women in design? Especially in industrial design?

I grew up in Sweden and studied Fine Arts and Industrial Design at Lund University. In the ID program there was a 50/50 split of men and women, so I was a bit surprised coming to the US and seeing so few women in design. Hopefully as more women gets recognized in this field, it will inspire and encourage other young women to choose a career in the fields of technology and design.

Moving to San Francisco has enabled me to be a part of a culture of innovation and I’m excited about bringing a different perspective to the table. At Google X we are quite fortunate with having a very diverse group of people working on challenging problems. With Glass this is especially important, both from an ergonomic and style perspective, since we are designing something you wear.

You will be speaking at Dwell on Design this year. Is this your first time attending/presenting? Is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to sharing with your audience?

It is my first time at the conference and I’m excited to talk to a group of people who appreciate design as much as I do. I will share some of our creative process around Glass with the audience and hope they can envision ways that Glass can help simplify and enrich their life.

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This article was originally published on June 17, 2013 on our sister site, Dwell on Design.


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