Made by me

October 2018

Featured technology

Virtual reality

Who we’re helping

Our supply chain partners

Our role

Produced a virtual reality experience where we bring you to the factory of our supplier Flex in Zhuhai, China, where you can walk in a worker’s shoes for a day

Worker assembling product parts

Every Google product you use was made by someone, somewhere. People mined the raw ingredients that went into the phone parts, and factory workers assembled those parts. Workers helped transport the completed products from factory floor to pallet, boat yard to warehouse, and truck to store. It’s a complex process, with hundreds of people touching the product before it reaches your hands.

Our products wouldn’t be here without these people. And now, thanks to a new virtual reality (VR) experience produced by Google, you have an opportunity to get to know some of them.

In our Made by Me VR experience, we bring you to the factory of our supplier Flex in Zhuhai, China, where you can walk in a worker’s shoes for a day. Using a smartphone and Daydream View, Cardboard, or another VR headset, viewers are immersed in a 360-degree environment. You can check out the surroundings on a factory floor, scan the faces of coworkers during an impromptu break-time concert, or simply focus on the person speaking.

You also hear directly from workers, who discuss wages, working conditions, product quality, favorite hobbies, and life aspirations. (Although Made by Me was conceived as a VR experience, anyone can watch the video without a VR headset on YouTube.)

A person sitting in a chair and using a VR headset.
Made by Me teleports viewers to a factory in our supply chain, where they walk in a worker’s shoes for a day.

Making the impersonal personal

Putting workers first is the focus of our Responsible Supply Chain program, which sets expectations for fair treatment and safe working conditions at our supplier factories. Made by Me reveals the human side of the work we do—and why we do it. Supply chain responsibility can often feel like an impersonal web of corporate policies, laws, and compliance audits, but it’s also a stake in the ground for the rights and well-being of every individual who has a hand in making our products and providing services.

The story’s lead, Wen, left her village five years ago for a manufacturing job at Flex. Persuaded by the company’s reputation for fair wages and ethical treatment, she worked her way up from an operator on the manufacturing line to the leader of a 20-person team. Her story is typical of people in our supply chain. She wants a good salary, healthy working conditions, and the opportunity to provide for her family. In a situation familiar to high-tech workers everywhere, she’d love to buy a house one day but is squeezed by Zhuhai’s burgeoning real estate market.

A person smiling at the camera and wearing a factory uniform.
Our VR experience introduces viewers to workers like Wen, whom our policies are intended to protect.

By telling Wen’s and others’ stories, we’re pulling back the curtain on what it’s like to work in a supplier factory. What’s in a worker dorm? How do managers engage their workers? What do assembly production areas look like? How do the people who make our products feel about product quality?

We’re also giving you a glimpse of supply chains that people rarely see. Most news stories on tech suppliers rightly focus on labor and safety violations, but they often neglect to introduce you to the people whom our policies are intended to protect. During the Made by Me experience, viewers learn that the goals and aspirations of factory workers in China aren’t that different from those of tech workers in Silicon Valley.

A person smiling and spinning a basketball on one finger.
Viewers get a glimpse of what workers like to do in their free time.

Being there without actually being there

We filmed Made by Me using the latest Google VR technologies, helping us create a fully immersive experience. A 17-lens Yi Halo camera captured 360-degree footage that allows you to see what a supply chain worker sees in every direction without missing a thing. We were able to expedite production with our Jump Assembler software, which automatically stitches footage together once it’s uploaded to Google Cloud.

As a result, we were able to produce a seamless, professional-quality VR experience in just a few weeks, demonstrating the potential of VR as a storytelling vehicle for filmmakers with limited resources. Google also works to make VR more accessible through Google Cardboard, a VR viewer that almost anyone can build or buy.

We chose VR as the vehicle for Made by Me because we want Google consumers and stakeholders to hear directly from workers, not just learn about them through news stories. VR puts you in the same room as the people who make the products you use every day. It’s the closest most viewers will come to stepping foot in a supplier factory.

Demystify, not deny

We work diligently to make sure our suppliers treat workers fairly and with respect. When choosing a new supplier or moving up a product launch date, we know that we’re not just shifting a few numbers on a manufacturing line: We’re affecting people’s lives.

Made by Me isn’t intended to gloss over the reality of supply chains, and in one as large as ours, violations do sometimes occur. Rather, our goal is to demystify how our products are made and help viewers understand the human impacts of our decisions—and yours.