January 13, 2016

New Year, New Google: Two New Hires in Global Public Policy and VR

Image from The Conversation.
By Megan G.

For Google, 2015 was the year of many great improvements and industry shakeups, such as their rebirth as Alphabet.  However, it was also a time of messy European Union disputes (that happened to plague much of the tech industry) and lackluster virtually reality. 

Thankfully, 2016 has already seen the company make steps to improve both of these aspects of their business, with two brand new hires:  Clay Bavor for VR and Caroline Atkinson for global public policy.  One longtime Googler and the other White House vet, this dynamic duo has positioned Google to take on the more ambitious virtual reality projects in its industry as well as effectively manage its often testy global relations. 

Establishing a Better Global Public Policy

Google has not had a great track record with the European Union.  The EU-Google struggles have been documented on Tek Shouts! before, and often, but now Google seems to be taking an, even more, serious look at their global affairs.  The tech firm has hired Caroline Atkinson, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, to head their global public policy.

Caroline Atkinson.  Image from Top News Station.

So, what does Atkinson have that Google so desperately needs?  A history in foreign business is a good start, having advised the President in International Economic Affairs.  According to The White House, her responsibilities as senior adviser to Obama included “coordinating the policy-making process and driving the execution of those policies, including financial, trade and investment, development, energy and environmental issues.”  

Pretty impressive, and a great skill set to have in the case of, say, a tech company who is ambitious in its enterprise and passionate about environmental preservation.
Caroline Atkinson, who is “respected around the world for her understanding of how the global economy works,” will not only work wonders for Google but can also find ways to satiate the European Union.  

In short, she can ideally craft win-win situations, which have not been appearing in the EU debates.  In standard Googley fashion, the company has hired someone who can achieve a much-desired balance to foster relationships across seas rather than create enemies.      

Virtual Reality?  Google’s Been Here the Whole Time 

Google Cardboard, the pizza box who had a dream.  
Image from Wikipedia.
Okay, so it’s not the prettiest virtual reality device to grace the market—so what?  According to recent articles on the subject, you would think Google has been twiddling their thumbs over a dusty, pizza box headset, watching Facebook’s Oculus and other gadgets fly on by.  

Not true, Internet.  Not true at all.

Comparably, Cardboard looks dinky when placed next to the Oculus Brick—ahem, Rift—and Samsung Gear.  But, in terms of affordability, Google’s headset is on point.  Playing a horror game on the Oculus Rift will delightfully scare the you-know-what out of you, but can you afford the $600 price tag?  

Cardboard is $20 plus a smartphone you probably already own.

My ranting aside, however, it cannot be denied that virtual reality is rapidly expanding and could potentially leave the less flashy, if more accessible, Google Cardboard in the dust.  This is why Google has appointed Clay Bavor, former VP of products at Google, the VP of VR.

Clay Bavor presenting Google Cardboard.  Image from Wired.

Let’s check out Bavor’s qualifications.  First and foremost, he was one of the creators of Google Cardboard and, according to re/code, has apparently been spending “more time with Cardboard despite his broader responsibilities,” such as Gmail and other important products.  Clearly, Bavor’s focus was in the right place before his official shift to head of virtual reality.  Never mind Gmail and Google Docs crying alone in the corner.  

Bavor’s experience as VP of Product Management had him spending a lot of time improving user experience, which is exactly what Google Cardboard needs to succeed:  a good manager to push a hardworking development team and a user experience buff to keep the VR device as accessible as it has been and as interesting as other headsets on the market. 

Hopefully, this project can keep focused and catch up with the fancier VR headsets, instead of turning into another potentially unattainable Google Moonshot (which, coincidentally, might have a chance to turn into an actual business, according to re/code).

As 2016 chugs along, these two new hires can bolster the relatively weaker aspects of Google’s business endeavors, both across borders and into the virtual worlds of fantasy. 

What’s your opinion on Google’s activities in Europe?  What VR experiences have you tried?  Answer our burning questions in the comment section below.  We would love to hear from you!

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