Rumours of renewed work on Google’s Project Iris augmented reality (AR) smart glasses have surfaced on the internet, according to reports.
News of the resurgence comes after the tech giant reportedly ceased work on the massive project in June this year, indefinitely shuttering its head-mounted display (HMD) ambitions.
Originally, Google acquired technologies from North, an AR smart glasses enterprise, and debuted the project at its I/O event. Previously, the Mountain View-based enterprise discontinued its Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 smart glasses, leading to concerns over the project’s future.
However, reports in August surfaced that Google insiders had said original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had received pitches from potential Project Iris developers, including Samsung Electronics. The reports added that the pitches indicated a potential release date in 2025.
The fresh report from 9to5 Google indicated that Google had embedded code in its most recent beta update, hinting at resumed developments of the elusive project.
According to the report, strings of code tagged ‘iris’ showed that users could long-press a part of the device’s right temple to activate the Google Assistant. This could replace the “Hey Google” command prompt commonly used on smartphones and Chrome browsers.
The code is as follows,
<string name=”assistant_bisto_oobe_iris_finish_setup_description_no_hotword”>Just touch & hold the right temple to talk to your Assistant.</string>
This will also allow users to pair their Sony LinkBuds for similar gestures, which has received Google’s “iris_device” code attribution, the report added. Multiple devices, including Made by Google ones or AR smart glasses.
9to5 Google added that Iris would integrate many features from the Google Assistant function, with some coding indicating the smart glasses will also integrate AI-powered Assistant controls “like calling friends and setting timers.”
The report concluded,
“It remains to be seen whether Google sticks it out this time and releases proper AR smart glasses – either launching its own hardware or partnering with an OEM”
Ups and Downs in Google’s Project Iris Initiative
Initially, news of the smart glasses began to reemerge in January last year, after The Verge reported that Google planned to resurrect development on the headset.
This came as Meta and Microsoft began to work on their own augmented reality projects at the start of 2022, just before turmoil erupted across the global tech industry.
According to two unnamed sources speaking to the Verge, the report stated that Google would begin shipments of Project Iris in 2024. Google then launched its Labs division with Clay Bavor, Former Google Vice-President of AR/VR, leading the project.
Previous reports showed that early prototyping of Project Iris indicated standalone devices and did not require tethering to smartphones, PCs, tablets, or laptops. It would also offer outward-facing cameras for producing mixed reality (MR) content.
Additionally, it would leverage Google’s Tensor processors found on the Google Pixel smartphone, with rumours of a new operating system (OS) found in recent job postings.
However, the company’s Area 120 team hosting the Google Labs unit remained relatively unscathed by restructuring taking place at Google in July last year.
Sundar Pichai, President and Chief Executive, Google, announced a year later it would cut significant portions of Google’s research and development (R&D) funding and workforce. Announced in January this year, Pichai remained one of many executives in the tech space breaking the news of impending job losses to their employees.
Meta Makes Moves towards AR Smart Glasses at Connect 2023
Furthermore, both Meta and Microsoft shuttered their AR smart glass ventures. However, Meta has hinted to audiences at the Meta Connect 2023 event that it would revive its AR smart glass ambitions.
Meta debuted its Ray-Ban smart glasses complete with artificial intelligence (AI) integrations, leading to new levels of human-computer interfacing. The next-generational headsets were incremental movements towards fully-functional AR smart glasses, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Meta, said in his keynote at the event.
Furthermore, Microsoft seems to have relaunched R&D efforts to develop its AR smart glasses following a major AR/VR division restructuring. This has led to the death and resurrection of AltspaceVR, redesigned under Microsoft Mesh for Teams last month.
Patents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this month have unveiled Microsoft’s plans to create a modular, hot-swappable battery storage component for a future AR smart glass display.