How Fiction Influences Science, According to Google Creative Lab’s Robert Wong

A new video from Future of StoryTelling, and Google Creative Lab’s Robert Wong illuminates the effect fiction has on science. Wong tells Co.Create why it’s not enough for technology to just be awesome. (It also needs a great story about why we should love it.)

What would fiction be without science? Just last week, we mentioned how deep research can sharpen storytelling in a lot of ways. Of course, on the flip side, storytelling can also have a very real effect on the science being researched.


“Technology and art have a lot in common,” says , leader of Google Creative Lab. “They are both highly creative endeavors. They both answer the french director Robert Bresson’s demand, ‘Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.'”

In a new video, Wong makes visible the process of art and technology colliding. Created by Future of StoryTelling summit, The Fiction of the Science takes place entirely on a desktop. Not a computer desktop, mind you, but the kind on which deep thinkers have attended to creative problems since time immemorial. It’s Wong’s work desk, and a parade of photos, pens, and notecards dance across it to illustrate Wong’s unlikely tale of how an MFA-holding graphic designer and his team helped influence the creation of Google Glass.

“When Future of StoryTelling asked Robert to contribute a film, he invited me to come up with a concept and style that would be a cool match with his narrative, and then to direct the piece,” says Gabriel Nussbaum of Bank Street Films. “I thought it would be nice to play against the futuristic technology Robert discusses, by making the film very low-tech and handmade.”

Indeed, there’s a charmingly analog vibe to the objects that stop-motion shuffle across Wong’s desk as he discusses Google Glass in its hypothetical phase. Of course, Nussbaum couldn’t help himself and ultimately ended up getting a little fancy, adding in a “magic photographs” effect, courtesy of Brooklyn-based Mixtape Club.

Aside from the visual appeal of The Fiction of the Science, Wong’s description of coming up with stories for what products might do–before setting out to invent the product–serves as a call to arms for designers, storytellers and techheads to collaborate more often.

“Maybe we shouldn’t look at technology and art as two different disciplines,” Wong says. “At their best, technology and art add beauty to the world and to our lives–imagine, when they do it together.”


Watch a video about the Future of StoryTelling Summit below.