Google engineers are developing a new augmented reality (AR) headset, according to a report by The Verge quoting two people familiar with the project.
Google hopes to ship the product – codenamed “Project Iris” – in 2024, but that date is unlikely to be set in stone.
Like Apple’s rumored mixed reality glasses, Project Iris would be wireless and use external cameras to send you an augmented image of the real world. And as one of the devices Apple is said to have been working on, the glasses would leave heavy graphics processing to an external computer. In Google’s case, the device will rely on cloud computing instead of nearby hardware.
The sources say that current prototypes of the device “look like a pair of ski goggles”.
The Verge’s sources claim that around 300 people are working on Google’s top-secret project, including some members of the Pixel team. The project is led by Google Labs VP Clay Bavor, who has been heavily involved in several past AR/VR/XR projects over the years.
These projects include Google Lens, ARCore, and the recently revealed Starline project. Project Starline is a high-resolution video call and telepresence booth that uses both 3D sensors and 3D display technology to create the illusion that the person you’re talking to remotely is sitting directly in front of you in a physical space. Starline is also targeting a 2024 launch, and it’s rolling out to select Fortune 500 companies and internally at Google as part of a trial program.
As is often the case with R&D projects (and especially at Google), many of Bavor’s projects didn’t turn into mainstream products. That could end up being the case here too.
On the other hand, Google is now part of an ongoing arms race in mixed reality technology. Facebook has renamed itself Meta and sees this type of technology as its future core business. Meanwhile, Apple is working on a mixed reality and augmented reality platform, with several products in the works. And other big tech companies like Microsoft are investing heavily in telepresence and augmented reality.
Google’s history with this type of technology is also profound. For example, the company introduced its Google Glass AR headset in 2012. Glass failed as a consumer product, but is still used in an enterprise context. And Google acquired smart glasses maker North last year.
Other key people involved in Project Iris include the Senior Director of Engineering in charge of ARCore (Shahram Izadi), the Senior Director of Engineering who was previously in charge of Google Lens (Eddie Chung), the creator of Google Assistant Scott Huffman, former Lytro CTO Kurt Akeley, and former Facebook/Meta AR software leader Mark Lucovsky.
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