Anonymous statements made inside Google tell that the search giant’s upcoming AR headset will be lightweight, thin, untethered and powered by a custom Google chip aided by 5G cloud streaming.
Alex Heath, from The Verge, reports based on anonymous statements within Google that the search giant is secretly working on a new pair of augmented reality glasses. Initial reports, indications, and rumours point to untethered, thin and light AR glasses. The device is expected to run on Google’s own operating system as well as an in-house chip and have 5G-enabled cloud streaming.
The AR project is codenamed “Project Iris” and is expected, optimistically, to launch in 2024. The headset will feature outward-facing cameras for MR. As of now, we do not know if the tracking will be powered by external software, such as SteamVR™, or a Google-developed software.
Lastly, the lens technology behind Iris will be waveguide, based on recent job listings at Google North, one of the departments working on Project Iris. However, we do not know further details of what waveguide iteration Iris will adopt and who the provider will be, but the general lens technology indicates a lightweight and thin augmented reality enabled pair of smart glasses.
While the battleground for thin and light augmented and assisted reality glasses in China is raging on with Oppo, Huawei, TCL, and Nreal, the western markets have remained apprehensive. However, this seems likely to change.
In the west, the thin and light AR market currently consists of a few offerings: The partnership between Meta and Ray-Ban with the social media positioned sunglasses called Ray-Ban Stories and the extensive moves into augmented reality from Snap through smartphone screens and pairs of glasses.
Now, with Google entering the AR race, it will be exciting to see the different strategies play out between Meta’s focus on the metaverse, Apple going for premium hardware and Google adopting the Chinese thin and light AR glasses strategy to the west, with added Google-centric features.
What stands out is that Project Iris will be untethered and battery-powered, combined with independent processing from a custom Google chip, similar to Pixel’s Tensor. An effective hardware strategy, as efficient optimization of both power consumption and processing, will be possible. A similar strategy is seen from Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset, equipped with its own Apple Silicon.
This optimization will also be pivotal in Google’s approach to beam augmented reality content through, likely, 5G, like the cloud gaming service Google Stadia, propelling use cases that the coming smart glasses can offer.
Lastly, Clay Bavor, overseeing Project Iris, also manages the impressive ultra-high-resolution video booth “Project Starline”, combining real-time 3D imaging with ultra-high-resolution to create the future of virtual meetings.
Interestingly, it may be that Project Iris and Project Starline will intersect and develop a video telephony solution similar to Cisco’s Webex Hologram, fusing augmented reality and real-time 3D imaging. In any case, as Bavor stated in an interview with Cnet in 2019: “I characterize the phase we’re in as deep R&D, focused on building the critical Lego bricks behind closed doors. If you can dream it, we probably have a prototype of it somewhere in one of our labs.” Meaning that we will not see Project Iris any time soon.
As more details get released of Google’s secretive AR glasses, ‘Project Iris’, the more exciting the headset looks to be. Firstly, the Google-developed chip will result in efficient battery consumption and processing power, enabling a compelling untethered smart glasses product. Secondly, the waveguide lens design indicates that the product will be stylish, lightweight, and thin.
Most importantly though, Google will utilize its many patents and existing services to elevate Project Iris to impressive heights: both in the operating system, 5G-enabled cloud streaming and a vast AR app store.
The wait will be long, estimates say 2024, but it looks to be worth it.