The return of Google Glass in a more professional guise could be a big earner for Alphabet.
Yes, it’s back. In truth, Google Glass probably never went away, but the first generation made people quake with uncertainty over privacy, and made those who wore them look geeky, elitist and suspicious.
Indeed, some of the earliest proponents earned the less-than-flattering sobriquet ‘Glassholes’. But now it’s back, with a renewed focus on industry.
‘Workers in many fields – like manufacturing, logistics, field services and healthcare – find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy’
– JAY KOTHARI
The industrial eyewear termed Glass Enterprise Edition could transform how various industries, from medicine to advanced manufacturing, empower their workers through timely information and on-the-job training.
The first generation of Google Glass was not quite as refined as it could have been, and was unceremoniously scrapped as a consumer technology three years ago. Even the executive in charge of the project – iPod creator (aka Pod Father) and Nest founder Tony Fadell – resigned from the project last year.
But the potential for business and industry could one day be a big earner for Google parent Alphabet, if it succeeds in taking on Microsoft’s HoloLens in the industrial mixed-reality market.
A Glass act for Google goggles?
Developed by the top-secret research arm of Google, known as X, the focus of Google Enterprise Edition is to create a corporate version targeted at workers, from doctors and nurses to warehouse managers and manufacturers.
Forrester Research predicts that around 14.4m American workers could be using Google Glass by 2025, generating between $1bn and $2bn in revenues for Google.
Partners already deploying the new version of Google Glass include Augmedix, which has created an app that automates note-taking for physicians; Upskill, which relays visual and audio instructions to GE Aviation mechanics; and Ubimax, which has built a solution to help DHL employees figure out where parcels need to go without relying on paper or screens.
Project lead Jay Kothari said that Glass has already led to efficiency improvements at GE, for example, by up to 12pc, through the delivery of video instructions to mechanics wearing the smart eyewear.
Kothari said that more than 50 businesses are now using Glass, including The Boeing Company, Sutter Health, AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health and Volkswagen.
“Based on the positive feedback we’ve received from these customers in a special programme we’ve been running for the past two years, we’re now making Glass Enterprise Edition available to more businesses through our network of partners.”
Kothari said that the revamped Google goggles are ideal for a work setting where people don’t have to switch focus between what they are doing with their hands and the content they need to see to do their job.
“Workers in many fields – like manufacturing, logistics, field services and healthcare – find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy.
“That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customised software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields. We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long-term wear. We’ve increased the power and battery life, too.”
Kothari said that the future of Glass will be tied into the future of work.
“We first saw signs of Glass’ potential for businesses in the Glass Explorer days,” he said.
“Now, the Glass product team is back at X, and we’ll be collaborating with the Google Cloud team and our partners to help customers across a variety of business sectors make the most of Glass.
“Together, we’re looking forward to seeing more businesses give their workers a way to work faster and in a more focused way, hands-free,” said Kothari.