Leak: Google develops AR headset "Project Iris"
Google reacts to competition from Meta, Apple, and Microsoft: "Project Iris" is to become AR glasses for everyone.
Recently, there have been increasing hints that Google has embarked on a new AR project. Tech leaker Alex Heath now has exclusive information from sources close to the company.
The device under development is said to have integrated cameras that capture a video image of the surroundings, which can then be enriched with AR elements.
The idea is anything but new: Meta is already launching a device based on this exact design principle this year with Cambria, and Apple could also reportedly unveil its first video AR headset in 2022, years in development.
Google's AR headset: launch in 2024
Work on Project Iris - the device's code-name - is said to have started recently, and the market strategy is not yet clearly defined. The targeted launch in 2024 could therefore be provisional, Heath speculates. The first prototypes are said to resemble ski goggles and work autonomously, i.e., they do not require an external player.
Google will rely on its own chip design, as with the latest Pixel smartphone. The device is to run on Android. In parallel, Google could work on a specialized AR operating system. Allegedly, the company is also thinking about using cloud streaming for computing AR content in order to circumvent restrictions like limited computing power and waste heat.
The project is top secret and currently employs 300 people, with Google looking to hire hundreds more skilled workers.
The core team includes specialists who led and manage projects such as ARCore and Google Lens, Lytro's former chief technology officer, and Marc Lucovsky, who recently joined Google from Meta. Lucovsky was responsible for the development of Meta's XR operating system. Heading up Project Iris is Clay Bavor, Google's longtime VR and AR chief.
Is Google in panic mode?
Measured against the competition, Google is late to the party with its video AR headset. After the early failure of its Google Glass, an expensive bad investment in Magic Leap, and a series of unsuccessful VR projects like Google Cardboard and Google Daydream, the company shifted its focus to AR software development. The results are Google Lens, AR navigation in Google Maps, and AR search.
Meta's aggressive push into VR and AR and the ongoing rumors about Apple's AR plans could be the reason for Google's sudden and late change of heart.
Shortly after Facebook's refocusing on the Metaverse, Google reorganized and launched Google Labs, a division that specializes in long-term technology bets. The future lab is headed by Clay Bavor, who reports directly to CEO Sundar Pichai.
Google Labs is also likely to work on AR glasses suitable for everyday use, which is the goal for all corporations, including Meta and Apple, but is not yet technologically feasible.
In 2019, Google bought data glasses maker North, and recently Hololens optics-chief Bernard Kress moved from Microsoft to Google. Kress was instrumental in the development of Google Glass and Hololens.
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