Google kills Glass Enterprise, but big tech’s AR dreams live on

Google Glass Enterprise Edition

After a run that lasted for a decade, the end has come for Google Glass, with the announcement this week that the tech behemoth will discontinue the enterprise version of the augmented reality (AR) glasses.

Sales of Google Glass Enterprise were halted as of Wednesday, though support will continue for another six months, according to a company announcement.

“After September 15, 2023, you will continue to be able to use the Glass Enterprise Edition device and existing software. No software updates from Google are planned,” Google said in a FAQ.

The company said that broken devices can be replaced via the existing process — through which users contact their distributors or resellers to submit a replacement request —until September 15.

Google noted that third parties are responsible for maintaining their apps, and that no further software updates from Google are planned. System images, however, will remain available on the system images page, until at least April 1, 2024.

Google Glass never gained traction among users

Despite generating plenty of curiosity and publicity, Glass — the first, consumer version of which was announced in 2012 — faced difficulties in gaining widespread acceptance, partly due to a design that made it look like a gadget rather than a fashion accessory. Additionally, the device’s ability to take photos and capture videos without others knowing about it contributed to its lack of popularity.

Google Glass was largely discontinued for non-enterprise users in 2015, after which the company shifted its attention towards exploring the potential of the headset for businesses and developers.

The first edition of Google Glass Enterprise, introduced in 2017, helped a “variety of industries — from logistics, to manufacturing, to field services — do their jobs more efficiently by providing hands-free access to the information and tools they need to complete their work,” Google claimed. “Workers can use Glass to access checklists, view instructions or send inspection photos or videos.”

Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, released in 2019, would help “businesses further improve the efficiency of their employees,” Google said.

Among other issues, however, the price always seemed high for the device. While the original Explorer Edition, which cost $1,500, was a big price tag  for a product that, as Google eventually conceded, was essentially a prototype, the Enterprise Edition 2 did not get much cheaper ($999) and did not offer much over the original version.

Tech companies continue to develop AR, VR devices

Big tech companies are still pursuing the concept of head-mounted visualization technologies, variously called smart glasses, augmented reality glasses, virtual reality glasses, and even mixed-reality displays. While there is disagreement about how to label any particular device, industry observers commonly say that while VR presents a completely digital environment to the user, AR overlays digital information on the real, physical world.

 Meta has launched Ray-Ban smart glasses, with cameras but no displays. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has talked about a product line that resembles Google Glass, and by rechristening the company Meta in 2021, showed he was betting big on virtual reality and the gear that the technology requires.

Apple is preparing a VR headset that has the ability to use outward-facing cameras to show the external environment, similar to a transparent lens.

Microsoft has HoloLens, its own augmented reality glasses for business. (The company, however, recently laid off a segment of the team working on it.)

Although Google has discontinued Glass, it doesn’t imply that the company has abandoned its pursuit of augmented reality. While some commentators argue that Google Glass should not be considered true AR since it displayed only basic information, in June last year, Google previewed a different type of smart glasses, capable of real-time speech translation and transcription, and said it would continue to test prototypes of augmented reality glasses in public.


Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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