It’s been over two years since Google’s early attempt at wearable augmented reality blew up in their face. In 2015, Google finally had to admit that Google Glass in its then-current form wasn’t going to work as a consumer device after receiving tons of blowback about the unsettling idea of someone staring at you with a camera that may or may not be turned on. But, the Google Glass project was never terminated — instead, Google started looking into ways to make it useful for businesses and search and rescue missions. They’ve succeeded, and that business-focused headset is now available.
Here’s a quick recap — Google Glass is a thin headset worn like a pair of glasses containing a camera and a small display hovering over one eye. That display can pipe in notifications, directions, or information about nearby buildings, putting the information into the user’s line of sight without totally obstructing vision.
It’s not much different now. Google has made Glass more regular glasses-friendly over the years, making it possible to clip the frame onto eyeglasses or safety glasses — vital for most of the enterprise uses Google has in mind.
The most important advances over the last two years have probably been in software. As machine learning and image recognition have improved, developers have been able to make more and more sophisticated augmented reality programs. That’s paid off for Google — Glass can now replace thick manuals in the manufacturing and repair industries. Glass can bring up relevant information about parts or machines using object recognition and voice commands from the user. It makes finding information much faster, and the businesses that have been quietly testing Glass over the past couple years have seen big improvements in efficiency and quality of work.
In a post on Medium yesterday, Glass project lead Jay Kothari also talked up the use of Glass in the medical field. Doctors have been able to take notes and add to records using Glass, cutting down on the time they need to spend on data entry while they’re meeting with patients. The idea is that doctors will be able to spend more time staring at you instead of staring at a computer screen — well, there’s still a little computer between the two of you, but you get the picture.
It’s exactly what Microsoft is doing with their HoloLens headset, although Microsoft’s headset may prove more powerful. Microsoft has been demonstrating how retail managers can visualize entire shopping spaces using HoloLens, something that might be a bit outside of Glass’s capabilities.
After successful trial runs, Google is now making Glass widely available to businesses through a handful of B2B retailers. That means you won’t start seeing Glass on the streets or in bars anytime soon, so if you were worried about Glass spying then, it looks like you’re safe for now. Just know that depending on where you work, your boss might just have a little present waiting for you soon.