Google is reportedly making a new AR headset — and this tech junkie has flashbacks.
I could blame Google. It was their Google Glass AR headset, after all… but the fault really lies with me for not recognizing that I looked like a glass hole.
In truth, Google Glass was incredible wearable technology, way ahead of its time. I mean far ahead. So far ahead that no one has understood that we cannot innovate just to innovate. There is an aesthetic aspect. Everything you put on your body should be attractive or at least look like it belongs. Google Glass failed this litmus test.
The technology was proto-augmented reality. The roughly 25-inch overlay screen floating virtually in front of your face didn’t interact or augment your surroundings so much as it informed you without totally distracting you from real life. The idea of imagery interacting with real world objects was at least a few years old.
Even so, there were apps and you could control the system with on-device gestures (and head movements, which made you look even weirder). Much of what Google Glass did and the promise it held inspired future AR and VR interfaces. And with the interest in AR today, the future is not so far away.
Back to AR
And now the world is arguably obsessed with both virtual platforms (see Metaverse).
With its Oculus headgear, Facebook has pole position in the VR space and is now actively courting potential wearable AR fans with Ray-Ban Stories Facebook smart glasses. For now, there’s no screen – it’s video and photo capture devices, but you know where it’s going. Facebook is smart to start with attractive frameworks and build from there.
Apple is also hot on AR – Tim Cook says so – and is allegedly working on its own AR headset which may or may not leave most of the iPhone processing power you’re likely to have in your pocket.
With all this renewed interest, how could Google not re-enter the wearable AR headset space?
According to a report in The edge, the search giant has assembled a team and called it Project Iris. The latest story builds on earlier reports of Google’s intentions.
Unlike Google Glass, this headgear will feature cameras to shoot into the world and use AR imagery both locally and from the Google cloud to create an augmented reality ensemble.
I think it’s fair to assume that he will differ from Glass in other critical respects. Instead of a single-eye projected display, it will likely be a dual-screen stereo view. It should also look like a traditional pair of glasses – or at least as much as they can while carrying tiny displays, chips (probably one of Google’s Tensor mobile processors), speakers and microphones for so you can talk to Google.
In fact, that last bit is perhaps how Project Iris’ AR glasses most closely resemble Google Glass. Even though the original headset supported some gestures, most of us controlled it mainly by voice.
Yes, that was the other way I doubled my shame and embarrassment to my friends and family by constantly talking to Google Glass, even though some people didn’t realize what I was wearing.
Google’s next AR headset will benefit from vastly improved far-field microphones – the type they use in Google Home devices – meaning we won’t have to shout or even speak in a normal voice. A whisper should suffice.
Even the gesture technology should improve thanks to Google’s radar integration experience with their Pixel phones.
The report notes that Google continues to hire and grow, and the first product could be years away.
Still, the specter of Google Glass – a now-not-quite-dead enterprise product – will never be far from those efforts. Everything Google eventually produces has to look at least as good as anything from Ray-Ban or Apple (which will be the first). It should be easy to use, powerful but private (difficult for Google) and not cause any form of embarrassment.
It won’t be the next Google Glass. Project Iris, or whatever Google calls it, has to be something more.
That said, I’m going to slap whatever they produce on my face and call it a day. I have no shame.
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