Google Quietly Developing Cloud-Based Android AR Goggles

Meta has a VR megaphone; Apple has been working on an AR headset; and Microsoft wants the best of both worlds, with its mixed reality HoloLens and headset-agnostic Xbox game platform. But observers say don’t count Google out. The search giant is reportedly ramping up its headset efforts under the codename Project Iris with a release target of 2024. As with HoloLens and, experimentally as of last summer, Passthrough API-enabled Oculus Quest 2 headsets, Google’s device-in-progress is said to use an outward-facing camera to provide a real-world backdrop for digital images.

The Verge recently reported “early prototypes” of Google AR “being developed at a facility in the San Francisco Bay Area [that] resemble a pair of ski goggles and don’t require a tethered connection to an external power source.” Neither does HoloLens 2 or Meta Platforms’ Oculus Quest 2, at least not while in use.

The Verge says Google’s AR strategy is to render the images through the cloud (which makes sense given Google Cloud’s infrastructure). The new goggles are powered by Android and like the Pixel 6 smartphone use a custom Google processor, according to the report, which says the Pixel team “is involved in some of the hardware pieces, but it’s unclear if the headset will ultimately be Pixel-branded,” and “recent job listings” suggest a unique OS may be in development.

Although it sounds like these new prototypes were discussed with The Verge, but not seen or tried, they’re described as “creating a more immersive, mixed reality experience than existing AR glasses from the likes of Snap and Magic Leap.”

The AR Snap Spectacles (from Snapchat parent Snap Inc.) were previewed in May, and when The Verge reviewed them in December they said they were still “not for sale.”

After an early consumer play, Magic Leap in 2020 switched its focus to enterprise, where it competes with the more expensive and successful HoloLens. In October the company announced $500 million in new funding and a 2022 reboot with Magic Leap 2.

Meanwhile, in December speculation surfaced that Apple could debut AR eyewear in 2022, though earlier this month VRScout declared Apple “wants nothing to do with the metaverse.”

The Verge article goes on at some length about Google’s Project Starline high-fidelity “telepresence” system, introduced in May at Google I/O. As for AR, Google’s headset “is still early in development without a clearly defined go-to-market strategy, which indicates that the 2024 target year may be more aspirational than set in stone,” The Verge concludes.

Related:
Apple’s Long-in-the-Works VR/AR Headset May Not Launch Until 2023, The Verge, 1/14/22