Google's XR chief exits to start AI company
Clay Bavor led Google's XR strategy for more than six years. Now he is leaving the search company for a new opportunity.
Google Labs head Clay Bavor is leaving Google to start an AI company with former Salesforce co-CEO Brett Taylor. Taylor left Salesforce at the end of January 2023. The collaboration is expected to launch in March.
"We share an obsession with recent advances in AI, and we’re excited to build a new company to apply AI to solve some of the most important problems in business," Bavor wrote on Linkedin.
Bavor's position will not be filled, according to Google. The Labs team will become part of the Tech & Society division. The augmented reality efforts will move in part to the Platforms and Ecosystems division and to hardware chief Rick Osterloh, who oversees devices and services.
Bavor shaped Google's XR strategy
Clay Bavor has been the head of VR and later XR at Google since January 2016. He previously led the Cardboard campaign and later the development of Daydream and Google's first standalone mobile VR headsets, of which only the Mirage Solo unfortunately made it to market. The projects ultimately failed to make an impact.
In his role as XR chief, Bavor was also responsible for AR initiatives such as the ARcore smartphone API. Bavor was reportedly responsible for Google's abrupt shift from VR to smartphone AR as Apple prepared to do more augmented reality with the iPhone.
Will Google return to XR?
Google has been rather passive on XR lately. The company has not been involved in VR since the Daydream flop, with AR mainly in smartphones, but without any real strategy. At least from the outside it seems that way. Google is rumored to be working on an XR headset codenamed Iris, and has bought display maker Raxium, which is developing a key technology for AR, among other things. Bernard Kress, former head of optics for Hololens, left Microsoft to help with Iris.
Samsung has officially announced that it is developing a new XR headset with Google and Qualcomm. At a recent AI conference in Paris, Google spokespeople emphasized the importance of AI for better AR.