The return of Google Glass: What you need to know
The polarising augmented reality device Google Glass could be coming back in a big way, whether you like it or not.
Google Glass was a true trail blazer when it first hit the scene just under a decade ago, before quickly falling out of public favour. Google has quietly continued to sell various editions of the Glass, mainly for professional use. With virtual and augmented reality more widely accepted than ever, the tech giant feels now is the time for the wearable tech to make a return.
In a blog post, the company announced that public testing of a new edition of the Google Glass will begin in short order. These tests are being conducted by Google employees and "trusted testers".
Whether this concerns or excites you, here's what you need to know about the potential comeback of Google Glass. Click here to check out our guide to the best VR headsets in Australia.
Google Glass: A history
Announced in 2012, Google Glass was released as a public beta with 8,000 individuals picking up their very own Google Glass. This beta was later expanded in 2014. The device featured a touchpad allowing users to browse widgets like weather, photos, news and more.
Controversially, Google Glass also featured a camera capable of taking 5MP photos and 720p video. This led to immense controversy over concerns that users could discreetly record in public places without obtaining any consent.
NGOs and privacy advocates railed against the Glass. Eventually many private businesses banned its use on their premises.
This all led to the Glass being temporarily retired. It underwent a major retooling under former Apple executive Tony Fadell, before being re-released in 2017 as the Google Glass Enterprise Edition.
This version of the Glass was primarily designed for private use by corporations like Boeing. It may have fallen out of the public eye (pun intended) but you might be pleasantly surprised to hear about some of the usages the Glass has since found. For example, Dr Ned Sahin has used the Glass to great effect in helping children with autism refine their social skills.
It's also found a home in the medical world, where it has been used to take images of patients' retinas and improve the transcription of doctor-patient interactions. But it seems Google has simply been biding its time, waiting for a chance to bring the Glass back into public life.
New Google Glass public testing
Google hasn't announced too much about what we can expect from the second wave of public-facing Google Glass. In its blog post, it claims that lab testing has become too constrictive. Public testing is apparently needed to refine experiences like AR navigation.
Google admits that the prototypes will feature in-lens displays, microphones and cameras. However, these cameras will apparently not support photography and videography. Of course, the actual product presumably will have these features, so this just feels like Google kicking the can of public backlash down the road.
The prototype's camera will instead be used for analysing image data. This enables functions such as translating a restaurant menu.
Google claims this data will be deleted "except if the image data will be used for analysis and debugging. In that case, the image data is first scrubbed for sensitive content, including faces and license plates."
Can Google be trusted to hold up its end of the bargain when it comes to privacy? It doesn't exactly have the best track record in this area, so it's definitely fair to be sceptical of its latest foray into AR.
Is Google Glass worth it in 2022?
If you don't find a vision of cities full of people scrolling social media on a pair of glasses too dystopian, it's easy to see what Google Glass could bring to the table in 2022. Functions like translating a menu could be extremely useful and empowering for anyone visiting or living in a country whose language they don't speak. And who doesn't want to have Google Maps basically built into their eyes?
It's still very early days, and privacy is a major concern. Let's hope Google has learned a lesson or 2 from the last go and is capable of delivering a useful and safe device.
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