Google Accelerates AR Headset Development: Report
Google has stepped up its plans for an augmented reality headset or smart glasses called Iris, according to rumors first reported by The Verge. The headset is expected to come out in 2024 looking like ski goggles and combine visual and audio interactions. The half-glasses half-headset design will likely build on the technology acquired from North, the makers of Focals by North smart glasses when Google acquired it in 2020.
The devices described by the report describe a device with in-built visual displays, as well as cameras to provide a video feed of the world. The exact features are still in the works, but the hardware includes a custom Google processor running either Android or a new operating system unique to the device. The Google Pixel smartphone team is allegedly involved in the development though that may not be in the final name. There’s a great deal of secrecy around Iris despite plans to hire hundreds more people beyond the approximately 300 already working there. Vice president of Labs Clay Bavor is overseeing Iris, continuing his work at Google on virtual and augmented reality projects, including Google Cardboard and the Daydream VR platform. Bavor also manages the Area 120 product incubator and Project Starline, which is working on a hyperrealistic 3D video chat booth. Bavor’s team of leaders in augmented reality working on Iris also includes Google Assistant creator Scott Huffman, suggesting that the voice assistant will be a crucial element of interacting with the device.
Google’s purchase of North in 2020 scooped up North’s portfolio of patents, including those acquired from Intel in 2018. Intel planned to use that tech in the canceled Vaunt smart glasses, and North integrated the concepts into its own product. Most of the people from North are still at Google, adding to the likelihood of its tech being part of Iris.
The advent of Google’s next consumer-focused smart glasses a dozen years after the Google Glass failed so spectacularly marks a notable shift in the industry. From ‘Glassholes’ consigning the Google Glass to enterprise purposes only, smart glasses are on the upswing. They are somewhat divided into those that have visual elements and those that have only audio interactions. Anker’s new Soundcore smart glasses, Huawei’s Eyewear II, the Amazon Echo Frames, and the Ray-Ban Stories built with Facebook all forego visuals for audio. Xiaomi’s feature-packed smart glasses are a rare example of visual smart glasses aimed at consumers. Still, if Google sees a place for Iris in the market, the competition may heat up very quickly.