Frankly, it would be a bigger surprise at this point if Google wasn’t baking up its own AR headset. Per a new report from The Verge, the company is said to be targeting a 2024 ship date for its its latest hardware dive into augmented realty, in a bid to compete with Meta and Apple, the latter of whom that has been rumored to be operating in the space for quite some time.
Today’s report cites a combination of inside sources and job listings, which appear to point to a device running a new operating system on a custom chip (à la the latest Pixel handset) that would outsource some of its on-board processing power to remote servers. That would be in line with the company’s remote gaming effort, Stadia, which has thus far been met with a lukewarm reception. One imagines it would either rely on an on-board 5G connection or would utilize a connected handset. As with cloud gaming efforts, latency could prove a hard problem to solve on a product designed to be worn outside of the home.
Google’s ventures in AR and VR have also been a mixed bag. The company discontinued Glass in 2015, less than a year after opening sales to the public. Pricing and limited functionality have both been cited as playing a major role in the failings of a product that may well have been more than half a decade too early.
The company has since shifted to a different model for the technology, through Google Glass Enterprise Edition, more closely hewing to Microsoft’s XR play, HoloLens. While AR hasn’t exactly gone mainstream, Microsoft has found some success in the category courtesy of large partnerships, like the $22 billion one it signed with the U.S. Army for 120,000 headsets.
Project Iris appears to exist deep in Google’s development bowels, and CEO Sundar Pichai has been unsurprisingly tight-lipped, even bordering on tepidness in his discussions around future AR plays. “For a while, we have deeply focused on thinking through computing for the long term.” He said in a recent earnings call. “We’ve talked about ambient computing, and it’s just a matter of time before, you know, beyond phones, you’ll see other successful form factors. And AR is an exciting part of that future.”
What’s clear is that Google sees a wave cresting and wants a piece of that. In spite of some stumbles, the company could be well positioned to deliver a compelling product — something that takes augmented reality beyond the big ticket enterprise deals and onto consumer faces.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the story.