When Google announced early this year that it would halt sales of Google Glass, many observers were quick to label the computing-enabled eyewear experiment a failure. However, recently discovered Google documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicate the company plans a reboot of Glass.
Among the assortment of documents submitted to the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology in June are photos of a prism-equipped eyewear arm, an image of a complete Glass and a four-page “Quick Start” user manual for the device.
The manual, which along with the photo documents became available on the Web site yesterday, indicates some changes from the previous version of Google Glass. Those changes include a larger viewing prism and a power button that is now located on the back rather than on the inside of the device.
The updated Glass design also shows that the eyewear is foldable, just like a regular pair of glasses. Additionally, there is now a green light that turns on to indicate when the device’s camera is activated. The first version of Google Glass enabled users to take photos and videos without other people’s knowledge, which led critics to call early adopters “Glassholes.”
Reboot Aimed at Enterprises
Unlike the previous release of Google Glass, this new design appears to be aimed specifically at enterprise users, according to reports from both the Wall Street Journal and the site 9to5Google. Rather than being marketed to so-called “Explorers,” the new device is expected to be marketed through the Google Glass for Work program.
“Glass for Work partners will likely be loading their proprietary software onto [the] device before they’re even distributed, and at this point it’s not likely that Google will be selling this device to consumers in any capacity,” 9to5Google reported yesterday. “Sources tell us that the device has been in the hands of ‘hundreds’ of people across Glass for Work startups and in the field, but Google has yet to officially acknowledge its existence.”
The previous version of Google Glass had proved useful in certain business and workplace settings. Staff members with Virgin Atlantic, for instance, used the wearables to provide travel updates to passengers, and military personnel in Nepal used them in their efforts to battle poachers.
Wearables Quickly Becoming ‘More Advanced’
Google announced in a Google Plus post on January 15 that it was closing its Explorer program to “focus on what’s coming next,” adding that it would release “future versions of Glass when they’re ready.” At that time, the Wall Street Journal reported that the project would be moving from the Google X experimental labs to a division led by Tony Fadell, founder of the smart-thermostat company Nest, acquired by Google in 2014.
In September, the Journal reported that Glass would be getting a new life as “Project Aura” following Google’s hiring of numerous engineers and developers let go by Amazon’s Lab126 after that company’s failure with the Fire smartphone. Project Aura was said to be working on an updated version of Glass as well as other new wearables.
Worldwide shipments of smart wearables are expected to exceed 173 million by 2019, according to a recent forecast by the analyst firm IDC.
“Driven by advancements in user interface and features, smart wearables are on track to surpass the lower priced, less functional basic wearable category in 2018,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in September. “Smart wearables will quickly move from a smartphone accessory primarily focused on notifications to a more advanced wearable computer capable of doing more processing on its own.”