Google has reportedly stopped working on its smart glasses. Instead, the company is developing an operating system for AR.
Google’s smart glasses are dead, writes Business Insider, citing three people familiar with the matter.
Google reportedly worked on the device, codenamed Iris, for several years. The project was put on hold after layoffs, reshuffles, and the departure of Google’s AR/VR chief Clay Bavor.
In 2020, Google bought Canadian startup North, which was developing sleek smart glasses with a HUD called Focals. Two years later, Google unveiled a pair of smartglasses with display and translation capabilities, and even tested them in public. The wearable is said to have gone through several iterations, with constant strategy changes from Google’s leadership frustrating many employees, according to Business Insider.
Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 was recently pulled from the market. Apparently not with the goal of introducing a more modern product.
Google to develop an operating system for the AR age
Since the end of the Iris project, Google has focused on developing a software platform for AR devices, the report states. Google’s ambition is to create an “Android for AR” and license it to manufacturers of such devices, including Samsung. The Korean company is working with Google and Qualcomm on an AR headset similar to Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro.
With an Android for AR, Google could one day control the AR/VR market the way it controls the Android device market today. At least that seems to be Google’s hope. A prototype of the operating system is said to be called ‘Betty’ internally.
Meta uses a modified Android for its Quest headsets, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future after its attempt to develop its own AR/VR operating system failed. Apple, on the other hand, is using visionOS, a custom operating system, for the Vision Pro and upcoming AR headsets.
The road to true AR glasses is rocky
Designing lightweight, but powerful AR glasses has proven to be extremely difficult. Bulky AR headsets with opaque displays, such as Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro, are seen only as a technological stopgap on the road to mainstream AR glasses with transparent optics.
In early 2023, Bloomberg reported that Apple had indefinitely postponed an AR glasses project due to technical difficulties.
According to The Information, Meta will unveil an AR glasses developer kit and demo device next year, indicating the direction the technology could take. However, a more advanced version of the device is not expected to go on sale until 2027. But a pair of simpler Ray-Ban smart glasses with a display is planned for 2025, The Verge reported a few months ago. They must be similar to what Google envisioned for its canceled smart glasses.