Exclusive Q&A with On3 Founder Rob Rusher: How Google Glass Is Like ‘Minority Report’

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ADOTAS –– Ads may soon be illuminated right before your eyes. You may have caught my recent piece about the advertising potential and limitations of Google’s recently awarded patent for ‘pay-per-gaze’ advertising for Glass. As background for that story, I spoke with Rob Rusher (pictured), principal consultant and founder of the Glass app development company On3, Inc. where he drew parallels between Glass and how advertising is portrayed in the dystopic film “Minority Report.”



Q: How is Google Glass disrupting the industry and what is the potential for advertisers?

A: Google Glass is more of an evolutional leap in the wearable computing industry. If you think about it, there have been a number of head-mounted displays (HMD) in this space since the early ’90s (ski goggles, virtual reality helmets — just search “HMD” for images).  Most of them have been big bulky contraptions that had a bit of an oddity affect for the person wearing it. Google Glass is disrupting the industry by focusing on the user experience combined with social norms to create a product that is socially acceptable to wear and incredibly functional.

Since Google already owns the patents on “gazed-based advertising” and their core business is based around advertising, I can guarantee that there will be advertising opportunities. We can see Glass being used in a more effective way than the NFC features that are being used in Android phones today. From an advertiser’s perspective, it doesn’t get much more perfect than being able to serve an ad to a potential customer at the moment that user is ready to buy something, and in their line of sight, no less. It’s a lot easier to ignore the phone in your pocket or purse, don’t you think?!

Q: What does On3 do?

A: On3 provides the full suite of custom software development services — from large enterprise applications to mobile and TV apps, as well as staff augmentation and training classes.

Q: How can consumers benefit from your technology?

A: Simplicity is like a magnet; people will always move towards things that are simpler. The software we build focuses on hiding complexity, which makes it simpler. Simple software increases brand loyalty, conversions and consumer happiness, all of which make a huge impact in the business’ ROI.  Offering staff augmentation and training services means that we can help clients achieve a goal more quickly without having to add long-term overhead, and we can make sure the client can maintain their project once we’re gone.

Q: Google recently was awarded a patent to track eye movements through Google Glass. What about the creepiness factor? What are the benefits for advertisers? What are the drawbacks?

A: Regarding their patent, I’d like to clarify the difference between gaze and eye tracking. Google Glass currently does not have an eye-facing camera that would allow them to track eye movement. But, Glass does have access to a magnetometer (compass) and your phone’s GPS. Given their proficiency with GPS and mapping data, they could currently determine the general field of view based on direction your head is facing. Knowing the location and direction a person is facing is very general compared to tracking specifically the direction of one’s eye. Additionally, I seriously doubt there are any plans to pollute the user experience of Glass to include such a capability given the constraints of current eye-tracking technology. It is possible and it’s being done but reminiscent of the old days of HMDs.

From an advertising perspective, marketers and advertisers will have a distinct advantage of personalizing content based on search and short-range geographic information. i.e. I was searching for a new frying pan the other day and I’m current looking in the general direction of the Williams-Sonoma store that is 50 meters away.

There is a point in which we all feel like we’re overwhelmed with advertising. With more personalized, timely, and insightful advertisements we also might question our privacy. I think that for Google, and in the end, the advertisers, to be successful in creating the “Minority Report” type experiences, users have to feel like they are getting value out of the relationship (they give up privacy in exchange for things that help them). If the user doesn’t feel like they are coming out ahead in the deal, they will find a way to not participate (ie. they won’t use the device).

Q: What kind of data can you gather about users and consumers?

A: Google Glass is an Android device therefore it has a lot of the same restrictions and capabilities.  As we all know, Google collects, stores, and shares/sells user data as much as it possibly can – we don’t see that changing or diminishing.  Glass does not really add to the amount of data Google collects – it’s an extension of a phone, so whatever the phone could do before is what Glass can do now, just in a more convenient heads-up display.

Q: What is the future of wearables and advertising?

A: Instead of walking down the street, or sitting with a friend, while staring down at our phones, Glass gives us a heads-up display which allows people to be more engaged with their environment and the people around them. Any new device looks and even feels odd at first, but the more we see them, the more socially acceptable wearables will become. Sergey Brin knows this, and brilliantly took a handful of Glass to New York Fashion Week and put them on the runway models and others; he normalized and even added a glam factor to them in one week.

With the ability to put a great looking advertisement right in front of the consumer’s eye, versus a text message, advertisers will see better conversion rates.

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