Skip to main content

Astro Teller: Why we developed Google Glass

By Astro Teller
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
The future will be bright in all those augmented realities. <a href='http://www.google.com/glass/start/' target='_blank'>Google Glass</a> is the wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information on a visual display. The future will be bright in all those augmented realities. Google Glass is the wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information on a visual display.
HIDE CAPTION
Eyeing you up
20 wearable technologies of the future
Don't sweat it
Dirt Vader
Impact on the future
Sweet vibrations
Smokin' hot
What's your poison?
Fist-Bump your phone
Light me up!
Track it down
Shine on
Emotidress
Climate control
Safety sock
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Astro Teller: The way technology interacts with us is ready for a serious overhaul
  • Teller: Google Glass is meant to seamlessly integrate our digital and physical lives
  • He says when a technology reaches a point of invisibility, it has reached ultimate goal
  • Teller: Google Glass, if we evolve it the right way, should become a 10X improvement

Editor's note: Astro Teller is the Captain of Moonshots at Google X, Google's research lab that focuses on big ideas that can change the world. He oversees X projects like Google Glass and the self-driving car. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Technology is everywhere. It's in our homes, cars, workplaces -- it's in your pocket right now. This is nothing new. We have been conditioned to believe, despite the occasional dystopic summer blockbuster, that technology is making our lives easier. We are told constantly that all these tiny computers we carry around with us are improving, keeping pace as we grow as a society and allowing us to lead more efficient, happier lives.

Technology is a good thing. I believe that to be true. But, the more I witness its evolution, the more I think we're building it wrong much of the time. The way technology interacts with us is ready for a serious overhaul.

It is true that technology has the potential to dramatically help society. But technology on its own doesn't accomplish those things. It is in the transition from idea to tangible product where the fate of technology is determined.

Astro Teller
Astro Teller

Douglas Adams once said, "Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet." Technologies often fail not because they don't function; they fail us because we know they're there.

Technology, at its absolute best, is not a whiz-bang gadget we show off to our friends. It is, instead, something more like the seemingly mundane anti-lock brake systems on the cars we drive.

When you press your ABS brakes, you are not braking. You are giving a robot a request. The robot then processes the request, and brakes on your behalf. You just push the brake in a totally natural way, expressing your intent (i.e., how fast you'd like to stop). You offer guidance with your foot on the pedal, which allows the robot to do its work by interpreting that guidance and making sure you don't skid. This is the processing of a high-level desire by letting the technology take care of all the low-level details.

A young student uses Google Glass to record his work in art class at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Margaret Powers, who coordinates technology for the private school's youngest students, was selected for Google's Glass Explorer program, which allows people to test the wearable computer. A young student uses Google Glass to record his work in art class at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Margaret Powers, who coordinates technology for the private school's youngest students, was selected for Google's Glass Explorer program, which allows people to test the wearable computer.
What kids see through Google Glass
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Photos: What kids see through Google Glass Photos: What kids see through Google Glass
Morgan Spurlock explores Google Glass

When a technology reaches this point of invisibility, it has reached its ultimate goal: becoming part of our routine, with no compromise between us and the technology. The technology meets us 100% of the way, right where we want it and need it, right at the point where it improves our lives and takes nothing away. It doesn't take our attention, it doesn't slow us down, and it doesn't make us change the way we live our lives.

What inspired Google Glass was partly the realization that consumer technology products often don't live up to those standards. So, we began to look more closely at the people around us and how they interact with technology. We found they were living in a world divided between their digital lives and their in-the-moment physical lives.

I know that some people worry wearable connected technologies will become just the next step down the path of draining our attention and further widening the schism between our physical lives and digital lives -- just another techno-distraction.

We agree. So, we're developing the Glass design to make it easier to bring people the technology they depend on without drawing them out of the moment. We're building it to make digital life more elegantly and seamlessly integrated into physical life, or even to remove those barriers entirely. We aspire for Glass to help its wearers be naturally in the moment without having to "operate" anything.

The most successful wearable technology in human history is something people don't even view as technology anymore: eyeglasses. Invented 700 years ago, they caught on because, more than anything else, they made the world clear and visible for those whose eyes saw just a blur. And they made the world richer than if you didn't have them on.

Society has embraced eyeglasses to such a large degree because they offer us the best kind of technology -- there is no owner's manual, we don't have to fight with the user interface, and we forget they are there and become aware of them only in their absence.

Google Glass, if we evolve it the right way, should become a 10X improvement on that kind of experience. People wearing Glass would forget they're wearing it, just like you don't remember during the day that you are wearing regular eyeglasses -- until you aren't.

The goal of Glass is to take your base sensory experience of the world and deliver it to you in a better, more livable, more enjoyable, more beautiful way -- without having to compromise on anything on your end. It is our job to make sure, in Adams' formulation, Glass just works.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT