Google has recently started to ramp up work to develop an AR headset that is internally codenamed Project Iris, which it plans to release in 2024, as per two people with knowledge of the project who sought anonymity to discuss the matter without permission from Google.
Similar to the upcoming headsets made by Meta and Apple Google’s headset utilizes external cameras that combine computer graphics and a video feed of the real world, resulting in an immersive, multi reality experience than the existing AR glasses made by the likes of Snap or Magic Leap.
The early prototypes were developed by a location located in San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco Bay Area resembles the look of ski goggles and doesn’t require a connection to an outside power source. so let’s have a look into how Google Create AR Headset?
Google’s VR headset is still in its development, without an established plan for its launch which suggests that the 2024 deadline might be more aspirational rather than concrete.
The device runs on a customized Google processor, just like the latest Google Pixel smartphone, and is running Android but recent job advertisements suggest that a different operating system is in development.
Due to power limitations, Google’s plan is to utilize the data centers of its company to render certain images and then beam them to the headset using the internet. I’ve heard it’s the Pixel team has been involved with a few parts of the hardware and it’s not known whether the device will eventually be branded with the Pixel brand.
Google Glass is the brand name. Google Glass is almost certainly out of the question due to the blowback that occurred early (remember ” Glasshole?”) and the fact that it remains is an enterprise-level product.
Project Iris marks a return to a category of technology that Google has an extensive and tangled background in. It began with the flashy and disastrous launch of Google Glass in 2012.
Then a long-term effort to market VR headsets slowly sputtered away in the year 2019. Google has been indifferent about its hardware ambitions in this space and instead has focused on features in its software, like Lens which is its visually-based search engine as well as AR directions on Google Maps.
However, Mark Zuckerberg has bet his business in AR and VR, bringing on hundreds of people and changing the name of his company from Facebook into Meta. “Metaverse” has become a ubiquitous buzzword. Then Apple is working on their own virtual reality device in the latter part of next year.
Project Iris is a tightly kept secret within Google hidden in a facility that requires specific keycard access and confidentiality agreements. The core team behind the headset is around 300 individuals as of now, and Google is planning to hire hundreds of others.
The executive overseeing the effort is Clay Bavor, who reports directly to CEO Sundar Pichai and also manages Project Starline, an ultra-high-resolution video chat booth that was demoed last year.
If Starline is any indicator, Project Iris could be an engineering marvel. The people who have seen Starline claim it’s among the most amazing tech demonstrations ever. The ability to recreate the person you’re talking to within 3D is claimed to be real-time.
When conducting an eye-tracking experiment conducted with Google employees, Google found that people were able to focus 15 % more on the person they were speaking to on Starline as opposed to a standard video chat and that their memory recall was about 30% higher when asked about the specifics of conversations.
I’ve heard Google hopes to launch Starline by 2024 and Iris. The company recently brought Magic Leap’s CTO Paul Greco, to the team in an unannounced move. A pilot program using Starline in order to allow remote conferences is currently working with several Fortune 500 companies.
Google is also looking to implement Starline internally as part of its post-pandemic hybrid working strategy. The main goal of Starline is to bring the price of each unit to the tens in thousands. (Like Iris, there’s a possibility that Google will not meet its goal to production in the year of Starline.)
Bavor has been in charge of Google’s AR and VR initiatives for a long time, going up to Google Cardboard as well as Daydream which was a VR hardware and software platform that was launched in the same year as Oculus.
Bavor is a friend of Pichai and has worked working at Google since the year 2005. In November He has appointed the position of VP of Labs which comprises Project Starline, Iris, the new division for blockchain, and Google’s own internal product incubator, called Area 120.
When he was given his appointment, Google reportedly told employees that the Labs team is “focused on extrapolating technology trends and incubating a set of high-potential, long-term projects.”
Other people who are involved in Project Iris include:
- Shahram Izadi, a senior director of engineering, is also Google’s manager of the ARCore software toolkit
- Eddie Chung, a senior director of product management, was previously the head of product management for Google Lens
- Scott Huffman, the VP, and co-creator of Google Assistant. Google Assistant
- Kurt Akeley, a distinguished engineer, was the ex-CTO at the startup camera company with light fields Lytro
- Mark Lucovsky, Google’s senior director of operating systems for AR who recently held the same role at Meta
Google’s fascination with AR is a long-standing trend that dates back to Glass and its initial investment into Magic Leap.
I’ve heard that one of the reasons behind this Magic Leap investment was to have the option of buying the company in the future in the event that it could figure out a feasible route towards the mass market for AR hardware.
In an interview in an interview with the company in 2019, Bavor said, “I characterize the phase we’re in as deep R&D, focused on building the critical Lego bricks behind closed doors.”
Then, a few years later Google acquired a company that made smart glasses named North which was focused on integrating AR technology into ordinary-looking glasses. Also, Twitter launched hexagon-shaped NFT Profile Picture
The majority of people on the North team are still employed by Google. Recent job ads pertaining to waveguides -which is a display technology better suitable to AR glasses than an immersive headset such as Project Iris — suggest they are developing a new product in Canada. Google did not respond to this report.
In October, Pichai said on an earnings conference October that Google was “thinking through” AR and believes that AR will be a “major area of investment for us.” Google definitely has the money to finance the most ambitious concepts.
It has top tech expertise, a strong software ecosystem that includes Android, and appealing solutions for AR glasses, such as Google Lens. It’s not clear whether Google intends to invest as heavily as Meta who is investing 10 billion dollars a annually on AR and virtual reality.
Apple has thousands of employees working on its headset as well as an even more advanced version that includes AR glasses. As long as it doesn’t say otherwise, Google seems to be playing catch-up.