“What happened to Google Glass?” is exactly what I have been asking myself for the past 4 years. Earlier this semester I tweeted out that Intel was making another push for Smart Glasses by making their own “Vault” glasses. However, I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into this subject than a simple tweet because smart glasses might someday be as common as smart watches or even smart phones.
My first experience with Google Glass was in my senior year of high school, Spring 2014. My school was participating in the Google Glass Demo program. We received a Google Glass and could keep it for a period of time. One of the teachers would try it out and give feedback to Google on its viability for schools. If he and the school deemed it suitable for purchase, the school could acquire it for around $1000. Lucky for me Mr. Scranton, my photography teacher, was one of my close friends and I was able to get my hands on the device at school for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately, Google Glass wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It truly was a beta test and could do very little. For starters, it was clunky, the glasses didn’t feel naturally integrated with your outfit the same way that smartwatches feel to many the first time they use them. Tapping the side of the glasses just as the guy in the picture above is doing would prompt the Augmented Reality to be activated. A small display would appear in the bottom right corner of your view and you could do things like read emails, take pictures (which had an extremely slow response time) and of course, “google things”. The internet browser was weak at best. Reading anything other than a Wikipedia article was tedious and clunky. Try to think about reading an article on your smartwatch, it just doesn’t feel quite right. And just like that, my Google Glass experience was pretty much over.
When I recently tweeted out that Intel was creating their own “Vault” smart glasses I had thought it was about time. Intel’s new glasses are based mostly upon the notion that more information isn’t necessarily better. When creating the glasses, Intel realized that people don’t necessarily want an even more invasive way for their social media to flood their lives. Specifically mentioned in their promo video, the glasses allow you to subtly view pertinent notifications and dismiss them easily. Still in prototype form as of February 2018, Intel will release an early access program later this year according to Digital Trends.
The technology behind the glasses is incredible. It actually projects a Vertical Cavity Surface Emiting Laser (VCSEL) onto your eye which gives you the ability to view images in Augmented Reality. This differs from Google Glass because the glasses appear much more sleek without a massive camera attached to the side of them. This smoother integration drives the Vault towards usage in the social sphere more so than Google Glass was able to. Another facet of the technology is the activation of the glasses. One can bring up a display by merely tilting one’s head 30 degrees upwards (the angle can be customized to preference). I believe that Vault is making huge strides towards smart glass integration in the world.
But the real answer to the question of where did Google Glass go…enterprise, that’s where. Google Glass discontinued it’s consumer edition of the glasses but Alphabet partnered with Streye to apply the Glass to business in late 2017. GE was one of the companies that implemented this technology to their manufacturing process and the results are incredible. Instructional videos, animations and images are displayed on the glass and aid in the job being performed. GE Aviation uses these tools to improve airplane engine maintenance and have done so by increasing Mechanic Efficiency by about 8-12%. DHL, Boeing and Volkswagen are other corporate partners among more than 50 others who have started using Glass for Enterprise.
So where does that leave us? Intel’s Vault Glasses are in early stage prototyping and may make their way onto the streets of San Francisco or Manhattan in the next two years or so. Google Glass is taking off with Enterprises and custom software is being created for each and every one of their unique situations. And interestingly enough, Apple is trying to get a piece of the pie with rumors of Project Mirrorshades, an AR headset of their own. However, these are mere speculations right now based upon acquisitions and strategic movements. Apple made an acquisition back on November 21st 2017 of a Startup called Vrvana which specialized in AR technology. Similarly Quanta, a well known Apple partner, claimed to be developing an AR project for an anonymous client as well. Digital Trends expects Apple’s glasses to at least break into the public sphere in 2019. These three massive companies are breaking into yet another realm of technology and pushing the boundaries of what it means to live in the digital age.