Google Glass when it was first introduced to the world was an innovative product that could have been called ahead of its time. Quickly after the Explorer program was introduced, through which consumers and early adopters could get their hands on Google Glass for a spicy $1,500, it was revealed that the augmented reality glasses were not really made for consumers – even though they were meant to be. Google, as well as early adopters, came to the realization that while enterprise applications for Google Glass were many, there were few practical uses for the device when it came to consumers and their habits. Although using Google Glass to record a bike ride, vlog, or automate a few tasks sounds pretty neat, the poor battery life and obtrusive design made the device cumbersome to use and not fit for everyday use, as Google had intended to. Google Glass Mark II is in development judging by statements from product engineers given earlier in 2015 as well as new FCC documents unveiling the design and new features of the head-mounted augmented reality device. So why is Alphabet doing Google Glass Mark II if it has no consumer value?
Google Glass Mark II will embrace what the first model didn’t: the enterprise segment. Augmented reality, as Google and Microsoft’s HoloLens as well demonstrated, has many practical uses in the enterprise and even public segment, despite having few uses in the consumer market. As such, the company is most likely designing a second version specifically engineered for different spheres of the enterprise and other industries, such as the medical industry, transportation, education and design, among others. Augmented reality could superimpose guidelines in the field of vision of specialists and thus, ease their work in their fields and considerably speed up the process, all the while providing more accurate and real-time measurements and models. Although there are many skeptics out there who believe that the device doesn’t have a spot in any field, I truly believe that if Google Glass is launched alongside personalized and specialized software catering to each field the device would be deployed to, it could positively impact the respective industry.
Project Aura is also an interesting concept to take into account, although it’s not clear whether Google Glass 2.0 and Project Aura are the same thing or not. While some believe Project Aura is the new augmented reality gadget, others think the two are separate. It could be that Aura is a consumer version akin to Microsoft HoloLens and Google Glass 2.0 a device oriented strictly at the enterprise, but at this point, Tony Fadell, who is supposedly behind all this, is staying mum om the matter. Project Aura, for all we know, could be an entirely different project the company is working on.
All that being said, I still don’t think Google Glass Mark II, as revealed by the FCC documents, has a place in the consumer market. Not just because of its quirky design, but because of its limitations when it comes to battery life and processing power. The company has no doubt improved specifications, introducing a new Intel Atom chipset and making the device bulkier, but those improved specs still won’t make for a device that could ever satisfy the diversified needs of consumers around the world. I see potential for the device in personal transportation, in the case of two- or three-wheeled devices when it could be used as a hands-free navigation device. Nonetheless, this could be a distraction from driving and would need special engineering and software in order for it to avoid distracting drivers. Through voice commands and voice responses, it could be done, but researchers have proven that even that could be disturbing to drivers at the wheel.
Alphabet has not yet released official information about Google Glass 2.0, but CES 2016 sounds like a great place to show it off. CES 2016 has increased its enterprise clients and exhibitors and has more focus on the enterprise in general, which could be a great nesting place for the new device. Rumors of early deployment of the new Glass have already been circulating for a couple of months, the Wall Street Journal claiming that certain companies in the enterprise have already received the first batches of Google Glass 2.0 with personalized software and upgraded hardware. If Google does decide to introduce Google Glass in an official manner at CES 2016, they could gain a considerable head start in front of Microsoft’s HoloLens and other augmented reality devices from Panasonic and even smaller companies like Daqri. Although it’s an uncertain development, there’s a chance we might get a chance to test a prototype of Glass 2.0 at CES 2016, but we won’t find out until tomorrow. One thing is for sure: Google Glass 2.0 won’t have anything to do with consumers, and maybe that’s the best approach Alphabet could take.