Could Google be reviving its AR glasses?

  • Google has seemingly returned to work on its AR glasses, Project Iris, after shutting the project down in June citing workforce issues.
  • A line of code found in a new beta version of the Google app points to integration with an “iris-device.”
  • Google killed Iris in June this year and switched to working in AR/VR software instead with its Micro XR project.

Tech giant Google may have returned to working on its Augmented Reality (AR) glasses project, which was initially codenamed “Project Iris” and canned by the company around June this year.

A line of code found in the latest beta update of the Google app for Android smartphones seems to be for the Iris glasses, and is a means to summon the Google Assistant simply by pressing on your right temple. For those that don’t know, the “legs” or “arms” of glasses that coil around your ears are called “temples.”

The line of code was initially found by 9to5Google, who scrubbed the APK of the Google app to glean the string. It reads:

<string name=”assistant_bisto_oobe_iris_finish_setup_description_no_hotword”>Just touch & hold the right temple to talk to your Assistant.</string>

This suggests that Google engineers are once again looking to integrate the Google app with the AR device or software in some way. If this seems like not enough to suggest involvement with the Iris project, Google also made sure to include the attribute “iris_device” alongside the string. This means that it isn’t for another device, say Sony’s LinkBuds which apparently use a similar bit of code to call up the Google Assistant.

We reported in June how problems at Google, including a lack of workforce, due to layoffs hitting the firm, were among the reasons the Iris project was killed off and joined the company’s vast graveyard of ideas.

Alphabet, Google’s parent, axed 12 000 employees at the onset of 2023. Making matters worse for the project, Clay Bavor, Google’s AR/VR boss left the company around the same time. After seemingly abandoning the hardware side of the AR project, probably before it got out of hand like the rise and highly publicised fall of Google Glass, Google pitched instead towards making AR software.

It began working on its “Micro XR” platform, basically an VR/AR operating system that could be licensed to manufacturers, similar to how the Android OS works today for smartphones and tablets. But this new bit of code suggests, at least, that Google has not forgotten about the glasses.

Perhaps it is simply running tests on Iris-aligned software, which would be smart seeing as other tech royalty such as Apple with its Vision Pro headset, and Samsung with its own mixed reality competitor, are soon to hit the market. Augmented reality seems to be coming back in a big way and Google may not want to miss out if it is true that the market is finally ready for the tech.

Will South Africans ever see anything to do with Iris in the local market? It is possible, Google once sold its Glass devices locally before pulling them from shelves globally. Time will tell.

[Image – Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash]


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