Technology TED-Ed

Google Glass: prototyped using binder clips and clay

You may have heard of Google Glass — a new venture by Google, where a user wears a head-mounted display (think, futuristic sunglasses) that overlays digital information and images onto the physical world.

Tom Chi was on the team that developed Google Glass, and spoke about the experience at TEDYouth. In this newly released TED-Ed lesson, “Rapid prototyping Google Glass,” Chi shares how the team greatly sped up their process of creation.

This method goes by the name of “rapid prototyping,” and it is just what it sounds like. While you might guess that Google Glass took months, even years, to create, the prototype for the headset was made in a single day. And when it came time to take the technology to the next level and prototype projections for the device, Chi’s team did so in just 45 minutes.

(Bonus: see NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi try on a prototype of Google Glass at TEDYouth.)

Chi’s team made these prototypes using some very unsophisticated materials– ones that expedited the process and didn’t require overthinking. For the headpiece, Chi used pieces of clay that weighed the same amount as the electronic pieces that would be used in the product. He wrapped the clay in paper and attached it to the modeling wire — and voila, makeshift glasses. From this, he was able to determine how the weight needed to be distributed between the nose and ears on this distinctive headpiece.

To prototype the projections, Chi’s team used binder clips, hairbands, a white board and chopsticks. Thanks to these materials, the team was able to practice the movements of playing with the projections, and realized that they weren’t something they wanted to include in the final Google Glass product after all.

“Doing is the best kind of thinking,” says Chi of rapid prototyping, “They teach you to think in school, but I think it’s a little bit overrated.”

Rapid prototyping isn’t just useful for the scientist, Chi emphasizes, but also for poets, artists and musicians – anyone who feels they want to share something and needs to build an instant framework for it. It’s as simple as using some paper, clay and tape to advance the idea.

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