After a slump in privacy a decade ago, Google admits it’s ready to test new augmented reality glasses in the real world
Google is poised to bring its AR glasses prototype to the real world, nearly a decade after privacy issues prevented its first attempt at augmented reality glasses.
It was in May this year when Google unveiled a new wearable device, a prototype AR glass, at its I/O developer conference.
Google was hesitant about revealing any of the glasses’ specifics in May, other than a particularly strong augmented reality capability, with voice recognition.
Google AR prototype
That feature essentially allows the AR glasses wearer to see (in words on a lens) what another person is saying, when the other person is speaking in a different language.
This can be a truly incredible development for people visiting abroad.
Google now in a blog post announced that it will test prototype augmented reality glasses in public institutions.
“Augmented reality (AR) opens up new ways to interact with the world around us. It can help us quickly and easily access the information we need, such as understanding another language or knowing how best to get from point A to point B,” wrote Juston Payne, group product manager.
“For example, we recently shared an early AR prototype that we tested in our labs that puts real-time translation and transcription right in your field of view,” Payne says.
The next video demonstration of Google’s AR glasses prototype is from May, with the device translating a foreign language.
“However, only testing in a lab setting has its limitations,” Payne wrote. “So starting next month, we plan to test AR prototypes in the real world.”
“This will help us better understand how these devices can help people in their daily lives,” he wrote. “And as we develop experiences like AR navigation, it will help us consider factors such as weather and busy intersections — which can be difficult, sometimes impossible, to fully recreate indoors.”
Payne said Google will begin small-scale testing in public institutions with AR prototypes worn by several dozen Googlers and selected trusted testers.
These prototypes will include in-lens displays, microphones and cameras, but they will have strict restrictions on what they can do.
“For example, our AR prototypes do not support photography and videography, although image data will be used to enable experiences such as translating the menu for you or showing you directions to a nearby coffee shop,” Payne wrote.
“It’s early and we want to get this right, so we’re taking it slow, with a strong focus on ensuring the privacy of the testers and the people around them,” Payne concluded. “As we continue to explore and learn what’s possible with AR, we look forward to sharing more updates.”
Google is right to be so cautious about the fate of its Google Glass wearable, which arrived almost a decade earlier, arguably before the world was ready.
In early 2012, Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted in San Francisco wearing the Google Glass – an augmented reality pair of glasses that offered users an in-your-face heads-up display (HUD) displaying information about the weather, messages from friends or directions in the city.
Google Glass also had a front-facing camera, and soon concerns about the security and privacy of the devices began to hamper its mainstream adoption, with Google Glass, in particular, being scrutinized several times by US lawmakers.
Things weren’t helped by the high purchase price (it cost £1,000 in the UK).
Google then made the decision after a lackluster reception about the wearable’s comical appearance, coupled with privacy concerns, to stop manufacturing its smart glasses for the consumer sector as early as 2015.
However, it continued to sell it for business and business use.
The new Google Glass AR prototype, when it comes to market, will face competition from the likes of Apple, Meta, and Microsoft — all of which have built or are planning to release their own wearable AR devices.