Google engineers are developing a new augmented reality (AR) headset, according to a report by The Verge, citing two people familiar with the project.
Google hopes to ship the product – codenamed “Project Iris” – sometime in 2024, but that date is unlikely to be set in stone.
Like Apple’s rumored mixed reality glasses, Project Iris would be wireless and use external cameras to send you a magnified picture of the real world. And just like one of the devices Apple reportedly worked on, the glasses would leave the powerful graphics processing to an external computer. In Google’s case, the device will rely on cloud computing instead of nearby hardware.
Sources say the current prototypes of the device “look like a pair of ski goggles.”
The Verge’s sources say about 300 people are working on the top secret project at Google, including some members of the Pixel team. The project is led by Google’s VP for Labs, Clay Bavor, who has been heavily involved in several previous AR / VR / XR projects over the years.
These projects include Google Lens, ARCore and the recently unveiled Project Starline. Project Starline is a high-resolution video call and telepresence stand that uses both 3D sensors and 3D display technology to create the illusion that the person you are talking to externally is sitting directly in front of you in the physical space. Starline is also aiming for a launch in 2024, and it will be implemented at some Fortune 500 companies and internally at Google in a trial program.
As is common with R&D projects (and especially at Google), many of the projects Bavor has led have not become mainstream products. That may also end up being the case here.
On the other hand, Google is now part of an ongoing arms race over mixed reality technology. Facebook has renamed itself Meta and treats this kind of technology as its future core business. Meanwhile, Apple is working on a mixed reality and AR platform with multiple products in the pipeline. And other big technology companies like Microsoft are investing heavily in telepresence and AR.
Google’s history with this kind of technology also runs deep. For example, the company introduced its Google Glass AR headset in 2012. Glass failed as a consumer product, but is still used in a corporate context. And last year, Google bought the smart glasses manufacturer North.
Other key people involved in Project Iris include the senior engineering director responsible for ARCore (Shahram Izadi), the senior engineering director who used to be responsible for Google Lens (Eddie Chung), Google Assistant creator Scott Huffman, former Lytro CTO Kurt Akeley, and former Facebook / Meta AR software manager Mark Lucovsky.
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