Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Google Glass is back.
Years after the wearable gadget’s infamous consumer flame out, it continues to live on in warehouses and on factory floors, and Google announced on Monday that it's releasing a new enterprise version with a better camera and longer battery life.
While the device flopped with regular users, it’s gained traction for work.
Google initially introduced its Glass “explorers,” edition with great fanfare in 2012 as company cofounder Sergey Brin lead a live demo of people jumping out of a Zeppelin with the device streaming their descent. Things quickly spiralled downward from there. People panned the $1,500 headset over its clunkiness, lack of utility, and privacy concerns. Early adopters were dubbed “glassholes” and Google sunset the consumer device in 2015.
Work on the headsets continued internally, though, and in 2017 Google relaunched Glass with an “Enterprise” edition that it said could increase worker efficiency and reduce errors. While the headset’s role in manufacturing is much less sexy than the original vision of all-powerful smart glasses, Google has nabbed customers like courier company DHL, Sutter Health, and farm-equipment manufacturing company AGCO.
“Introducing Glass Enterprise Edition to our manufacturing floor was not intended as disruptive technology or even competitive advantage,” Peggy Gulick, director at AGCO, said in a statement. Glass’s objective is simply to make employee’s jobs easier and safer, she says, as factory workers use Glass to view work instructions and checklists.
Google has a handful of partner companies that add additional software or gear to make the smart headsets work for specific use cases. Google’s suggested retail price for the new Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is $999, but its partners can tack on either a one-time fee for their modifications or an on-going subscription cost. Meanwhile, other companies are working in the augmented reality for enterprise space, too, including Microsoft, which sells businesses its HoloLens 2 for $3,500 and Vuzix, which has several versions of its smart glasses, ranging from $999 to $1,499.
Beyond the news of the new model, Google also announced that it’s moving Glass from Alphabet subsidiary X into Google proper.
Previously, costs and revenues from Glass showed up in the Other Bets section of Alphabet’s earnings,which includes businesses like self-driving car unit Waymo and health division Verily. Now, they’ll appear within Google’s “other revenues” category, which includes other hardware, its cloud business, and sales from its app store Play.
While Google declined to disclose how many customers Glass has, sales have not yet registered even a blip on the company’s earnings. The entire Other Bets category reported revenue of only $170 million last quarter, on losses of $868 million, with sales mainly coming from Verily and its internet business, Fiber.