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Google Glass Is Back, but Not for Glassholes

Variety logo Variety 7/18/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Google parent Alphabet is giving Google Glass another chance: The company has revived the controversial wearable device with a focus on enterprise applications, Alphabet subsidiary X revealed Tuesday.

X has been quietly testing an enterprise version of Glass with a number of companies, including GE, DHL and Sutter Health, and is now making the hardware more widely available through a network of partners. However, consumers shouldn’t hold their breath — there is no sign that Glass will be made available to them any time soon.

Google first introduced Google Glass with a so-called explorer edition two years ago, at the time touting the wearable as the future of mobility. Worn like a regular pair of glasses, and equipped with a small display in the corner of one’s field-of-view, Google Glass was supposed to give users quick access to notifications, navigation instructions and more, all without the need to take out their phone.

One of the key features of the device, was a camera, capable of taking photos and short videos with voice commands. However, that camera also led to a huge backlash, as many felt uneasy by the fact that Glass wearers could record them without their knowledge. That, and the fact that the device sold for a hefty $1700, quickly led to Glass wearers being labeled as “Glassholes.”

The new enterprise version of Glass still has the camera, but also a red LED that turns on whenever video is being recorded, Wired reported Tuesday. The hardware also comes with better wireless networking, a faster processor, and the ability to work with prescription glasses. But more importantly, the Glass team has fundamentally changed how the device is going to be used.

Instead of positioning it as a general-purpose device, Glass is being made available through specialized partners, which also sell customized software with a focus on job productivity. Workers at DHL use Glass to sort packages, GE is relying on the hardware for work site instructions, and Sutter Health is using the device to help doctors during their patient visits.

These efforts are being driven outside of Google as part of Alphabet’s X subsidiary, which is why the product is now also officially just called Glass, sans Google.

That also means that Google itself will continue to work on its own augmented reality efforts as part of the same team that has also developed the company’s Daydream VR headset. These efforts are thus far focused on smartphone-based augmented reality as part of Google’s Tango initiative, but could possibly one day be integrated into an AR headset, or pair of glasses, as well.

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