Reports of the death of Google Glass have been greatly exaggerated.
Instead of logging everyday life events, answering random search queries, and generally creeping everybody out, Glass will now be a staple of factory floors and emergency rooms. Workers will wear the headset to get hands-free guidance on tasks while keeping their eyes on their work.
The small team that adapted Glass for the workplace is part of Alphabet (not Google), the report says. For the most part, Glass 2.0 works as the wearable always hasputting messages and information directly in the wearer’s field of viewwith an important difference: At the end of the day, the users leave their headsets at work.
There are a few other differences, too. Google Glass EE is built to support both regular frames and safety glasses, and from the looks of the photos the visor protects the wearer’s eyes better than, say, the trendy frames that were an option on the consumer edition. Also, workers activate their company-specific software with the command, “OK, Glass, proceed.” The frames are foldable, and Alphabet says the new Glass has more processing power, better battery life, and a superior camera (now 8 megapixels). It also has “the ability to connect with other devices.”
Another big change: The electronics are removable. A button will release the “Glass Pod” the actual computer from the frame so a worker can easily switch between prescription and safety glasses. Finally, the headset has a visible red LED that lights up when the device is recording video, directly addressing the privacy concerns the original Explorer Edition raised.
Since the beginning, Glass has had a role to play in the workplace, with early adopters like North Carolina firefighter Patrick Jackson creating Glass apps specifically for their lines of work. As the headset got more exposure and the tide of public perception started to turn for the worse, Google started playing up those enterprise applications. It was too late, though: Just as those workplace applications were gaining credibility, Glass had become a jokea ridiculously geeky symbol of tech excess and a cautionary tale of how not to do consumer wearable technology.
But Glass was never officially dead. Google said all along that Glass had “graduated” from Alphabet’s moonshot factory, X, and a software update in June of this year proved someone was still keeping the lights on at the project.
Now Glass is getting a second life as what it probably should have been all along: a workplace tool. Boeing, GE, DHL, and Volkswagen have all been testing the device, and some are expanding their pilot programs into full-on adoption because they’re seeing big gains in productivity. With custom software designed by its partner Upskill, GE claims mechanics using Glass boosted their efficiency by 8-12 percent.
Will Glass find in the workplace the success that eluded it among consumers? It’s apparently off to a strong start, but it’s also facing a resurgent field of smart-glasses upstarts from the likes of Vuzix, ODG, and Epsonand those competitors promise true augmented reality with transparent displays that cover close to the entire field of view over both eyes (as opposed to Glass’s smaller display, which is only above the right eye).
Still, Glass has a lighter form factor and an ease of use that competitors lack. Plus it has the benefit of renewed focusGoogle flirted with the consumer market, but found that it wasn’t ready for smart glasses. Google Glass 2.0 will know to keep its relationship with its users strictly professional.