Google Glass lurches in its tomb after new AR/VR deal

  • A new deal between Google and an AR startup could see some form of digital glasses return from the company.
  • Google infamously killed its much-maligned Google Glass in 2015.
  • Demos at I/O this year show that Google hasn’t forgotten about the potential of AR-powered digital headwear.

The long-dead Google Glass augmented reality glasses may have just gotten a jolt to its desiccated carcass as Alphabet confirms a new deal with an augmented reality startup in the form of the US-based, Saudi-backed Magic Leap.

While an announcement from Magic Leap detailing the partnership didn’t reveal too much, the partnership – seemingly from left field amid Google’s hyper-focus on generative AI software – is a sign that Google is once again looking to do something in the augmented reality (AR) space.

The most infamous thing Google ever did in AR was the Google Glass, a set of clear AR glasses that it pulled from worldwide markets in 2015, including South Africa, due to criticisms over poor battery life, privacy concerns and slow performance that ate into demand.

Since then, it seems Google has enjoyed keeping a foot into the Glass casket, with reports in 2023 that developers at the company were working on some form of AR software, or at least something AR-adjacent. This was after dredging its AR division in a mass layoff that affected around 12 000 employees across a number of departments.

According to Reuters who interviewed Magic Leap’s CTO, the partnership will focus on bridging Magic Leap’s skills in device manufacture and optics with Google’s technology platforms. This sounds to us that the company will be releasing some form of AR device running Google software.

“We’ve shipped a couple of different versions of augmented reality devices so far, so we’re out there delivering things, and Google has a long history of platforms thinking,” Magic Leap CTO, Julie Larson-Green told Reuters.

“So we’re thinking, putting our expertise and their expertise together, there’s lots of things we could end up doing,” she added.

At its I/O conference this year, Google showed off some software tie-ins with AR hardware, demoing an AI agent called “Project Astra” by having a person wear a pair of black digital glasses and have the AI describe what they were seeing, which included a HUD overlay.

Perhaps the partnership with Magic Leap could see this particular piece of glasses technology return to the market and pick up where Glass left off. If so it would be entering a new market for AR, and will have to compete with the enormously expensive Apple Vision Pro and a closer rival in Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses.

Time will tell, but it seems clear that it has never been a better time in recent years to be a Glasshead.

[Image – Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash]


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