The much-ridiculed augmented-reality goggles from Google, once known as Google Glass, are back after two years of relative silence.
On Tuesday, Google’s parent company Alphabet reintroduced the device to the world, and said it is now called simply “Glass” and is under its experimental “X” department.
Google stopped a retail test of Google Glass in 2015, in effect ending its early ambitions to make it a consumer device. Google Glass faced big criticisms, including concerns about the device’s camera making it easy to encroach on others’ privacy, as well as the simple fact that the glasses looked unfashionable.
The device’s high price tag – $US1500 ($1893) for the retail edition – was also a big impediment.
But even then, analysts said that the device had potential for use in businesses as a tool for training, or to make information more accessible away from one’s desk.
Promising trials in hospitals and with emergency-response teams drew the most lasting excitement from potential customers – far more than, for example, the headset’s turn on the catwalk at Fashion Week.
Now Glass seems to be embracing those less glamorous but arguably more practical uses.
Agriculture, shopping, health
The Glass team highlighted several companies in its blog post reintroducing the product to the world: the agricultural manufacturing company AGCO, shipping giant DHL and California health system Dignity Health.
Alphabet highlighted how Glass had made factory workers at AGCO more efficient.
“By reducing the amount of back-and-forth workers have to do accessing checklists, viewing instruction manuals or sending photos from tablets or laptops as they assemble machines, Glass has reduced machinery production time by 25 per cent and inspection times by 30 per cent,” wrote Jay Kothari, Glass’s project lead.
There are still some lingering questions about how well Glass’s makeover will work. Alphabet has not offered any details on the headset’s price, for example; the company said in an email to The Washington Post that prices will vary depending on how customers want to use the devices. And, even with improvements to the device’s battery life, processing capability and comfort, it’s certainly no guarantee that many companies are going to find a way to work the device into their own offices.
This more-focused Glass strategy also hits at a time when many Google competitors, such as Microsoft and Apple, have jumped into the world of augmented reality, which many believe is a big growth area for technology.
Virtual and augmented-reality devices are expected to generate $US162 billion in revenue by 2020, according to the market research firm International Data Corporation.