Google To Test Augmented Reality Glasses In Public

Google is ready to take its AR Glasses prototype into the real world, nearly a decade after privacy concerns scuppered its first attempt at augmented reality glasses.

It was back in May this year when Google at its I/O developer conference, revealed a new wearable device – namely a prototype AR glass.

Google was coy about revealing any of the specific features of the glasses in May, other than one particularly strong augmented reality capability, involving speech recognition.

Google AR Prototype

AR Glasses

That feature essentially allows the AR glass wearer to see (in words on a lense) what another person is saying, when the other person is speaking in a different language.

This could be a truly incredible development for people visiting foreign countries.

Now Google in a blog post has announced it will test augmented reality glasses prototypes in public settings.

“Augmented reality (AR) is opening up new ways to interact with the world around us. It can help us quickly and easily access the information we need – like understanding another language or knowing how best to get from point A to point B,” Juston Payne, group product manager wrote.

“For example, we recently shared an early AR prototype we’ve been testing in our labs that puts real-time translation and transcription directly in your line of sight,” said Payne.

The following video demonstration of Google’s AR glasses prototype is from May, with the device translating a foreign language.

“However, testing only in a lab environment has its limitations,” wrote Payne. “So starting next month, we plan to test AR prototypes in the real world.”

“This will allow us to better understand how these devices can help people in their everyday lives,” he wrote. “And as we develop experiences like AR navigation, it will help us take factors such as weather and busy intersections into account – which can be difficult, sometimes impossible, to fully recreate indoors.”

Strict limitations

Payne said that Google will begin small-scale testing in public settings with AR prototypes worn by a few dozen Googlers and select trusted testers.

These prototypes will include in-lens displays, microphones and cameras – but they’ll have strict limitations on what they can do.

“For example, our AR prototypes don’t support photography and videography, though image data will be used to enable experiences like translating the menu in front of you or showing you directions to a nearby coffee shop,” wrote Payne.

“It’s early, and we want to get this right, so we’re taking it slow, with a strong focus on ensuring the privacy of the testers and those around them,” Payne concluded. “As we continue to explore and learn what’s possible with AR, we look forward to sharing more updates.”

Google Glass

Google is right to be so cautious after the fate of its Google Glass wearable, which arrived almost a decade earlier, arguable before the world was ready for it.

In early 2012 Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted in San Francisco sporting the Google Glass – a pair of “augmented reality” glasses that provided users with an in-your-face heads up display (HUD) offering information about the weather, messages from friends, or directions around town.

Google Glass also featured a front-facing camera and soon concerns over the safety and privacy of the devices began to hinder its mainstream adoption, with Google Glass in particular coming under scrutiny from US lawmakers on several occasions.

Matters were not helped by its high purchase price (it cost £1,000 in the UK).

Google then took the decision after lacklustre reception to the comical appearance of the wearable device, coupled with the privacy issues, to halt production of its smart glasses for the consumer sector way back in 2015.

However it did continue selling it for enterprise and business use.

The new Google glass AR prototype, if it launches to market, will face competition from the likes of Apple, Meta, and Microsoft – all of which have built, or are planning to release, their own AR wearable devices.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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