Seven years after ditching the Google Glass prototype and switching to enterprise-only apps, it looks like the California tech giant is finally ready to give consumer-focused AR technology another go.
In an official blog post (opens in a new tab), Google announced that it will soon begin public testing of prototypes for its upcoming Google AR devices, which will focus on live translation and navigation features.
Rumors that Google is developing new AR glasses have been doing the rounds for some time, and with a quiet swipe, they were officially confirmed to be true all along. While it lacks the excitement we'd expect from such an announcement, it's a smart tactical move for Google.
As the post admitted, lab tests have their limitations and to take their development to the next stage, they need to bring these devices into the real world. Instead of playing catch-up after these glasses were discovered starting next month (August 2022), Google can get ahead of the curve and control expectations.
On that expectation-checking note, don't expect to see too many of these Google Glass successors out in the wild, at least not for a while.
The first real-world tests will be on a small scale, where only a few dozen Google employees and testers will walk around wearing the glasses. At first, they will also be primarily concentrated in and around Google's US headquarters.
Also, just because testing is starting to ramp up, there's no guarantee that Google's next AR glasses will be consumer-ready.
(Image credit: Google)
From the way the tech giant describes its upcoming tests, we could be seeing prototypes similar to Meta's VR headset test designs.
Rather than being a complete headset, each device was designed to test one feature at a time to perfect its implementation. In the case of Google, we might see one prototype that excels at translation, while another is an expert browser. Eventually these designs can be combined into a single garment, but that will take time.
Even if Google tests a single unified prototype, it could face the return of an old foe: public fear. While Google promises that its latest AR devices are limited in how they can use their cameras and microphones, that probably won't ease people's concerns.
When Google Glass first launched, there were numerous reports of people being attacked while wearing it in public. Google's return to AR wearables could stall again if its testers and early adopters are once again tormented by physical assaults.
That said, AR and VR technology has become much more common in recent years. The Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2) sold more than 15 million units after they were launched – after three years lost the supposed 20 million of the PS5 – helped by the technology of deformation of the reality among the mains people. Similarly, we've seen the launch of various AR and smart glasses, such as the Nreal Air and Ray-Ban stories, further paving the way for more advanced devices.
We'll have to wait and see how the general public reacts, not just next month when testers start walking around with the prototypes, but also when they're officially released. Another big flaw with the original Google Glass was its hard-to-swallow price of €1,500. Given the current economic difficulties that many people are facing right now, an equally expensive product could once again be doomed.
If you're looking for a navigation aid today and can't wait for Google Glass 2 to launch, why not check out our pick of five Google Maps features you might not know about?