Designing Google Glass

Lead industrial designer Isabelle Olsson has been working on Glass since the prototype was a phone attached to a scuba mask, she told an audience of developers at Google’s I/O conference today.

She modeled a slightly more advanced prototype for the audience.

Olsson said after walking initially into a room full of “people wearing these crazy things on their faces,” she defined her task in terms of three goals: lightness, simplicity and scalability.

“We removed everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary,” she said. Educated in Sweden, Olsson acknowledges Scandinavian minimalism as a design influence.

Weight is a crucial factor for the wearable computer, because if it wasn’t light people wouldn’t wear it for more than 10 minutes at a time, she said. It was also important to have the weight balanced symmetrically. The result is a product that weighs less on the user’s nose than many sunglasses do, Olsson said.

Olsson said the next step in designing glass is scalability, or making the product customizable enough that many people will want to wear it. The computer components can be detached from the standard frame she said. She showed it mounted on a pair of prescription glasses.

The tech geeks in the audience were surprisingly interested in the color of the glass.

Although she initially started with charcoal, Olsson said it became evident that color was more important than one might expect when users were asked to wear the device all day every day. She said the team was very diverse and they had noted that brown-skinned users tended to look better in the charcoal frames. The red-haired Olsson sported red Glasses, while two of the white male developers wore blue and white, and the South Asian engineering lead “rocked the charcoal,” as she put it.

One developer suggested green as the next color to be introduced. But as the components grow smaller, Olsson said, it’s unclear whether Glass will continue to make itself known through color or if the devices will become even more minimalistic, becoming an unnoticeable part of sunglasses and prescription eyewear, for example.

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