With every tech giant from Apple to Microsoft to Amazon rumoured to be developing a pair of augmented reality glasses or mixed reality headset, we’ve been wondering whether Google was planning to wade back into consumer headsets. After all, the company gave AR a shot a decade ago and still hasn’t quite recovered from the embarrassment (though Google Glass eventually found a better use case enterprise settings).
People familiar with Google’s plans have told The Verge that the company hopes to ship an AR headset in 2024. Early prototypes of the device look like “a pair of ski goggles.” The wearable, codenamed Project Iris, is (obviously) under lock-and-key at Google’s San Francisco offices in a building that requires “special keycard access” and signing non-disclosure agreements.
Project Iris doesn’t require a tethered PC or smartphone for power. Google’s AR device uses outward-facing cameras for its augmented reality abilities, which will make it more immersive than, say, Snap’s Spectacles, which are essentially sunglasses with a camera.
Google’s initial augmented reality effort earned its users the name “Glassholes,” so Google has some work to do to make Project Iris a much better product.
Unsurprisingly, the headset reportedly runs on Android — for now — and features a custom Google Tensor processor, just like Google’s Pixel 6 lineup. Rick Osterloh, the SVP of devices and services at Google, hyped Tensor’s augmented reality capabilities back in August.
Google is expected to use its data centres to render graphics in the headset via an internet connection remotely. This will be interesting to watch unfold, considering the disparity in internet speeds across households in the U.S. There’s speculation that Google’s work with Stadia, its cloud-based gaming platform, would help with this kind of technology.
Google is clearly watching its competitors commit themselves to the metaverse, a virtual extension of the physical world that doesn’t yet exist but by god, tech executives sure are trying to speak it into existence. Apple is reportedly taking a chance on augmented reality, and rumours have been swirling for years about its forthcoming headset — whatever it might look like. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, like Google Glass, also found itself more useful in enterprise settings.
So it makes sense that Google would give consumer AR another shot. The company technically had a 10-year head start with Google Glass, and some have argued that Google Glass was ahead of its time. With Google back at the drawing board and a decade of lessons learned, it’s possible Google Glass 2 could be an excellent device.