lu.se

LUNDS TEKNISKA HÖGSKOLA

Lunds universitet

Denna sida på svenska This page in English

Isabelle is behind Google Glass

Isabelle Olsson, alumnae from LTH in industrial design, that designed Google Glass.

GOOGLE GLASS IS one of Google’s latest and most exciting projects in which user-friendliness – not technology – is the focus. One of the key people behind the glasses which always provide an answer is Swedish Isabelle Olsson, an industrial design graduate from Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering, LTH. LTH news obtained an exclusive interview with Isabelle about Google Glass, her studies at LTH and how she got her job at Google.

Google X belongs to Google and is one of California’s most mythical organisations. The division is located a stone’s throw from Google’s headquarters Googleplex in Silicon Valley, and this is also where Isabelle Olsson works. Google X is where most of Google’s exciting and futuristic projects are developed – things like self-driving cars and internet via balloons. A rumour, persistently denied by Google, is that Google X is also developing a space elevator which would be able to move things from earth out into space.

”Google X does not shy away from the impossible. If it weren’t a truly challenging project, we wouldn’t be working on it. Glass is just such a project, in which the goal is to get the technology out of the way and get closer to the senses. As a designer, this is an enormous challenge which would normally lie fi ve or ten years ahead”, says Isabelle Olsson.

She says that Google Glass has the potential to improve people’s lives by allowing people to be more connected, while the technology itself is less distracting.

According to Isabelle, taking a new product like Glass to the market is as challenging as designing it. Before Google Glass was launched, a video was presented about how it might feel to wear the glasses. Google Glass was also shown at a fashion week in New York, in a show together with fashion icon and former princess Diane von Fürstenberg.

A super-secret project at a super-secret division in one of the world’s most infl uential companies. Everyday life for Isabelle features many exciting experiences.

”I remember the fi rst time I realised what I was working on; I fl ipped out a little at the time. But as soon as I understood what the whole thing was about, I was on track and kept the overall goal in sight. So far, I have been overwhelmed by how positive everyone is to Glass, and I look forward to giving people the chance to use the product”, she says.

The rumour about Google as an employer that carefully evaluates its potential employees is correct. Isabelle’s career at Google started with a recruitment offi cer contacting her via the CV website LinkedIn.

“I was working for the high-profi le design company Fuse-project, led by the industrial entrepreneur Yves Béhar in San Francisco, with everything from watches and glasses to furniture and exhibitions. After the initial contact with Google, I went through more than ten interviews with different people within the company’s core team. I subsequently received a job offer”, she says.

How useful are your studies at LTH in your work with Glass?

“My studies at LTH and the industrial design programme have so far been invaluable to my career. Through my studies, I acquired a lot of good basic knowledge. Perhaps even more important is the fact that I also developed self-confi dence and problem-solving ability. During my studies, we were encouraged to present our work in English, which has proven to be extremely valuable.” She also highlights the positive aspects of teamwork on projects from the ”real world”, as this provides good insight into what life will be like after your studies. “Living and studying in Lund is really fun, and the proximity to Europe is a defi nite advantage. When one is engaged in a creative activity, it is very valuable to have close connections to the kind of expertise, both technological and artistic, that LTH offers”.

What is it like to live and work in the US?

”Living and working in the US is different. Your fate is not based on where you come from or how many years’ experience you have – it is based on what you bring about. It is simultaneously nerve-wracking and liberating. Americans are very welcoming and it is easy to live here, but it is also challenging to create an environment in which you feel at home. When I fi rst arrived, I thought I would stay for six months. Now it has been over four years and I can’t see myself moving away in the near future.

TEXT: ANDERS FRICK

..and we try the innovation

I AM FASCINATED and amazed. I get the same feeling I got when I saw the film Existenz in the late 1990s. In it, people could plug a game unit into their spine and take part in a virtual game. Frightening and exciting! The difference is that what I am experiencing now is not a film.

I look up to the right where the little screen sits. I look so hard that it strains my eye muscles – they aren’t used to the position. It hurts. But I can’t stop!

I angle my head upwards or touch the touchpad on the right of the frame and the glasses start. Then I talk to them. “OK glass”, I say, and see a menu of options. It’s no revolutionary list. I can make a phone call, take a picture, record a video, send a message, google or get directions. But doing it with your glasses! It’s strange on a whole new level. It’s so high-tech it’s like science fi ction, and I again experience the same sensation of improbability that Existenz gave me. “OK glass”, “google”, “Alice Munro”, I say. The glasses’ voice reads out the latest Wikipedia information on the Nobel Prize winner. At the same time, I see a picture of her on the screen. It’s a bit pixely but perfectly acceptable. So practical! I don’t have to type on a keyboard or pick up my phone to do a search, the information just comes to me. I don’t even need to put down my cup of coffee.

I soon realise that the glasses work well for short, quick interactions. It only takes a few seconds from saying “OK glass”, “take a picture”, “share” to my photograph being published on the appropriate social media. That picture doesn’t look very good on the screen either. But printed out it’s really good. The glasses make a plinging noise when I take the photo, and again when I fi lm. I suppose it can be reassuring for those around to know when a Glass-wearer is documenting her surroundings.

My eyes start to get used to looking in that direction without it hurting. I almost forget about the glasses – they are so light I can’t feel that I’m wearing them. I pass a mirror. They’re quite attractive! It’s like wearing a tiara, one that’s connected to the internet.

But do I need the glasses? Will they become as self-evident and difficult to live without as a mobile phone? Will I start wishing for little computers in other accessories? Or will I want a door in my back that lets me enter virtual parallel worlds?

TEXT (and model): JESSIKA SELLERGREN