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The story of the “Ok, Glass” phrase, and why it’s not “clap on,” “device, please” or “pew, pew, pew”

Google, via Glass Marketing Manager Amanda Rosenberg, has shared how the "Ok Glass" hotword phrase was chosen to activate voice commands on Google Glass.
July 17, 2013
Google Glass
The Google Glass kiosk at I/O 2013

The history behind the “Ok, Glass” phrase used to activate the Google Glass voice commands has been recently shared by Glass Marketing Manager Amanda Rosenberg, who also revealed what other candidates were in place for the hotword.

By now you may have heard “Ok, Glass” a few times when looking at Glass videos, especially if you’re on top of your tech news, so it only makes sense to see how Google chose the phrase.

From the story Rosenberg was allowed to share with the world (including internal email screenshot below), she is responsible for coming up with the term.

Interestingly, it all happened while she was trying to impress Glass Product Manager Mat Balez and score a marketing job with the Glass team – eventually that happened thanks to “Ok, Glass.”

Ok, Glass, Google email
“Ok,Glass” Google internal email (Click here for bigger version).

The hotword – as the phrase is called – could have been a lot stranger with phrases like “clap on,” “device, please” and “pew, pew, pew” among the candidates.

Here’s the story behind “Ok, Glass” as told by Rosenberg:

I was invited out to dinner with Mat and his wife. Mat had already been working on Glass for a while, but at this time, Glass did not have a marketing team. I saw this as a chance to both impress Mat with my insightful marketing prowess* and get a free dinner. The dinner went very well. I relayed several hilarious anecdotes. So hilarious were these anecdotes, they rendered Mat and his wife breathless and thus, unable to fully enjoy the food before them**.

As the dinner drew on I realised that I was yet to flex my massive marketing guns in Mat’s tiny face***. I was saddened by this thought. I desperately wanted to be a part of Glass marketing (even though it didn’t exist yet) and I needed to do something to prove my worth.

In the car on the way back, Mat told me about how the team had been working on the “hotword” for Glass. I must confess, I did not know what “hotword” meant. Did I ask what it meant? No. Did I nod whilst looking pensive? You bet your glass I did. As I listened to Mat, I quickly* * * * deduced that he was referring to the phrase that sets off the Glass menu. He then asked me if I had any ideas for the hotword. In that moment the only phrase I could think of was ‘OK Glass’. I didn’t tell him straightaway though. Instead, I continued to look pensive and muttered something about ‘looking into it’ just to appear as though I was going to put more than 3 seconds of work into it.

When I got home, I tried my best to think of something else, anything else so that I could at least have a few options to send to Mat. Alas, I could not think of any others. I’ve been fortunately cursed with a one-track mind. So, I decided to put all my Glass eggs in one basket and send over a rationale for ‘OK Glass’ (below is the actual email I sent). A week later, it was implemented, at which point I asked Mat when I should start but apparently that’s ‘not really how it works’. I interviewed a week later and have been terrorising the Glass team ever since.

Now, you’re probably wondering ‘What were the other choices the team had before OK Glass?’ Well wonder no more! I just asked Mat to send me over the list of suggestions, like literally, just now as I write this. Ok, I just saw the list and there is no way I could not share some of these gems.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Listen up Glass
Hear me now
Let me use Glass to
Go Go Glass
Clap on
Device, please
3, 2, 1…
Glass alive
Pew pew pew

Coming up with the phrase was the easy part. Figuring out if it would work, was another story. There’s a whole team at Glass who worked very hard testing and implementing it before it was adopted. It’s hugely exciting to hear “OK Glass” being used today. That said, ‘Device, please’ is growing on me.

***Not a dramatisation
****Took a while to

That said, Google Glass is still many months away from public consumption, so if you’re already a fan you’ll have to keep waiting.