Google returns to augmented reality plans in Magic Leap partnership

Google also has been collaborating with Samsung Electronics since early last year to develop mixed reality technologies, which the Google spokesperson said was unchanged by the deal with Magic Leap. Larson-Green said she was especially eager to work with some of the “cool AI tie-ins” with augmented reality that Google announced at its annual developer conference earlier in May .

In a video at that event, Google showed off an AI agent called Project Astra by having someone don a glasses prototype and ask the agent questions about what that person was seeing. The agent gave answers in both audio form and as digital text overlaid on the lenses.

That functionality is similar to what Meta is planning for its Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, which added an AI assistant last year and in April received a software update enabling the agent to identify objects seen by the wearer in audio form.

Google glass

If Google were to jump back into making AR glasses, it would be yet another dramatic twist in the company’s on-again, off-again relationship with the technology.

Google was a first mover in what it pitched as an AR revolution more than a decade ago, when it introduced its Google Glass smart glasses. Its enthusiasm then was so great that it unveiled the device in an elaborate 2012 demo involving skydivers using the glasses to live stream a jump on to a San Francisco building.

However, consumers recoiled at the product’s clunky design and privacy concerns, to the point that those who wore it were sometimes called “glassholes”. Google retreated from the consumer market in 2015 and later abandoned the enterprise market as well.

Two years ago, though, the company came back with a preview of a new set of glasses that it said would display real-time translations of conversations in English, Mandarin, Spanish and American Sign Language.

The future of that project was thrown into doubt in January, when Google laid off hundreds of employees in its hardware units, including the majority of its AR team.


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