NEW YORK — With a name like Astro Teller, you’d better be ready to speak at length about the future.
As the “captain of moonshots” at Google X, the search giant’s secretive lab for ambitious technology solutions, Teller is someone who lives and breathes futurism. At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference today, he gave the audience a primer on what makes Google X tick and faced criticisms of Google Glass head-on.
With the verve of a Baptist preacher, Teller kicked things off by professing his love for anti-lock brakes — a far cry from the moonshot concepts he’s normally associated with.
“[ABS] is a wonderful technology moment,” he said. “We don’t have to mess with it. We just say at a very high level this is what we want, and it’s taken care of.”
“When technology is invisible and vanishes into our lives, that’s actually its ultimate goal,” Teller added.
That’s ultimately what Google is aiming for with X. Its self-driving cars could save countless lives by making driving on-demand and computer controlled, instead of something we spend hours to learn and a lifetime being vigilant about. For people with diabetes, the recently announced glucose-sensing contact lenses are a far better user experience than pricking themselves every day to test their blood sugar. And while Google Glass is far from mature, it’s a stab at making us less reliant on whipping out our phones at every buzz and beep.
Teller suggested that people working on new technology ask themselves: “How could the thing I’m working on take away a feature? How can the thing I’m working on take away a user interface? How can the thing I’m working on disappear into people’s lives?”
He was also quick to dismiss some of the privacy concerns around Google Glass. “This is the world’s worst spy camera,” Teller said, while wearing a bright blue Glass unit on stage at Disrupt. He pointed out that there are far better spy cameras on the market and that Glass owners often ask people for permission before taking pictures and video (something smartphone owners don’t typically do).
“For the foreseeable future, Glass will continue to be the world’s worst spy camera,” he said.
Watch Teller’s full Disrupt session below, split across two videos: