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Google's next-gen AR glasses join the Google graveyard

Google is now focusing on Android XR software for headsets and "micro XR" for AR glasses.

Published onJune 27, 2023

Google IO 2022 smart glasses
  • Google has scrapped its plans for next-gen augmented reality glasses.
  • The company has decided to pivot to developing software platforms for AR instead.
  • Google employees were reportedly frustrated with leaders continually changing the strategy for the project.

Currently, there’s an augmented reality (AR) hardware arms race brewing between Samsung, Apple, and Meta. At one time, Google was also a part of that race, as it worked on a product called Project Iris. But it appears Google has now bowed out of that race after canceling the project.

Details about Project Iris first emerged in a report from The Verge in January 2022. The device was described as an AR device resembling a pair of ski goggles. However, that particular device happened to be a separate AR project in partnership with Samsung — which was announced earlier this year. The real Project Iris was instead a series of products resembling a pair of glasses.

According to a report from Business Insider, Google had plans to launch Iris as its own product. To help with the development of this next-generation Google Glass successor, the tech giant acquired a Canadian smart glasses company called North in 2020. It even publically demoed the gadget’s translation abilities.

However, the device was put on the back burner following layoffs, reshuffles, and the departure of Google’s chief of augmented and virtual reality, according to the outlet’s sources. The sources say that employees grew frustrated with leadership as they routinely changed the strategy for Iris, requiring the employees to continually pivot.

Now it appears the Mountain View-based organization is moving away from hardware development and is shifting its focus to AR software development. We reported in May that Google confirmed it was working on an Android XR platform for Samsung’s AR headset. But this new report also mentions a “micro XR” platform meant for AR glasses. The company apparently hopes to license its software to the manufacturers building these devices, as it does with its mobile OS.

While it looks like it’s the end for Google’s AR glasses for now, two employees reportedly said the company may resurrect Project Iris one day. It appears there are still some teams experimenting with AR technologies.

With Samsung’s headset, the Vision Pro, and Meta reported to be working on its own AR glasses, Google’s decision may see the company fall behind its competitors in the space. However, Google also took its time with the development of the Pixel Fold.

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