Google teases wild AR glasses prototype


Google Glass was one of the first groundbreaking attempts at augmented reality, but the product was never sold to the public outside of its initial prototype. At the end of this year’s Google I/O keynote, Google announced a new pair of glasses.

Google released a nearly two-minute video on the potential of augmented reality to reduce language barriers, with glasses that can overlay other conversations in your native language. The video shows a pair of normal-looking glasses doing real-time translation and showing the results to someone wearing the glasses. Think Combadge from Star Trek, but in your face.

Before you get too excited, this isn’t a product announcement or even a confirmation that Google will release any AR-powered glasses anytime soon — the narrative just calls it “a prototype we’ve been working on.” Most AR glasses are also larger than the product in the video because it requires space for processors, batteries, radios and other hardware components.

Still, this is the first time in years that Google has signaled that the company is (probably) interested in selling smart glasses to people. The original Google Glass prototype in 2013, dubbed the “Explorer Edition,” was only intended to be used by developers, while Google continued to work on hardware and software. However, the product became unpopular with the general public (mostly because of its integrated camera), and Google stopped selling Glass to individuals in 2018. Glass is now sold exclusively to businesses and other organizations for internal use — shipping company DHL said in 2015 that Glass improved order picking in warehouses because workers didn’t need to flip through paper instructions or phone calls while processing packages.

Although Google hasn’t released any smart glasses to the public in years, many other companies have tried the idea. The 2019 Vuzix Blade is very close to the original concept of Google Glass, with an integrated display and a touchpad for controls, but reviews are rough. The company behind Snapchat has also released several glasses with built-in cameras, but none of them have displays.

Augmented reality glasses are a piece of science fiction that hasn’t really materialized, so it’s always exciting to see a concept revealed by Google this week. The company’s new idea appears to be largely focused on real-time translation, but that might just be the killer app for more general smartglasses products.


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