Google has announced a new version of its business-focused Glass augmented reality headset, which it’s now designating an official Google product instead of an experiment. The Glass Enterprise Edition 2 costs $999, although, like its predecessor, it’s not being sold directly to consumers. It’s got a new processor, an improved camera, a USB-C port for faster charging, and a variety of other updates.
Google still isn’t positioning Glass as a mainstream product. But it seems to be expecting greater sales of the Glass Enterprise Edition 2. The device has been moved out of Google parent company Alphabet’s X “moonshot factory” and into the Google family of products, letting Google “meet the demands of the growing market for wearables in the workplace,” according to a blog post.
The basic Glass design hasn’t changed much. It’s still a relatively simple heads-up display, not a Microsoft HoloLens-style mixed reality headset. But it’s gotten a processing boost with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chip, which is designed for augmented and virtual reality. Google says that with the XR1’s power, the new Glass headset can incorporate “computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities.” Google has already released a consumer-focused computer vision tool called Lens, which offers features like sign translation and restaurant recommendations.
Google is also adding new safety frames to Glass in partnership with Smith Optics, plus a bigger battery and other upgraded components. Glass also now runs on Android, with support for Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management. The Glass Enterprise Edition 2’s existence leaked months ago, complete with news that it would likely be moving to Android. But we haven’t gotten a full picture of Google’s plans for it until now.
Glass was originally billed as a mass-market augmented reality headset, but after complaints about privacy and functionality, Google reinvented it as a tool for surgeons, factory workers, and other professionals. Google boasts that businesses have reported “faster production times, improved quality, and reduced costs” by using Glass for hands-free computing or troubleshooting. The original “Explorer Edition” cost $1,500, so while the Enterprise Edition 2’s $999 cost isn’t cheap, it’s still significantly more accessible.
Several other companies are also working on business-focused augmented reality glasses, including Microsoft, Vuzix, and Epson. Meanwhile, consumer-focused AR hasn’t gotten very far, despite the existence of smart glasses like the North Focals. Moving Glass out of the X program seems like a vote of confidence from Google — but for now, there’s no sign that it’s coming to a broader audience.
Correction: Clarified that X is a division of Google’s parent company Alphabet.