In an intriguing turn of events, Google has been forced to reevaluate its augmented reality (AR) strategy following the shutdown of ‘Project Iris’, a successor to the Google Glass. This change comes as a part of the dynamic landscape of wearable tech, in which Google has had an eventful journey.
Google Glass, initially unveiled to the public as a groundbreaking innovation, was a pioneer in the realm of augmented reality. It introduced the world to the fascinating potential of wearable tech that could flawlessly infuse digital data into our physical surroundings. However, as public sentiment evolved, Google had to rethink its application and eventually redirected the Glass to cater to business clientele. The roller-coaster journey of the Google Glass ended with the project being shelved earlier this year.
This shift in focus opened the door to speculation and rumors that Google might once again venture into smart glasses through its ‘Project Iris’ AR initiative. But it seems like those expectations will remain unfulfilled as recent updates suggest that the Iris project, too, has met the same fate as its predecessor.
The tale of Iris is both compelling and enigmatic. According to insider sources mentioned in a Business Insider report, Google was forced to abandon the project amidst a wave of corporate restructuring. Iris, originally conceived as a distinctive kind of AR glasses, represented another ambitious leap by Google to carve its niche in the AR wearables market.
During its lifecycle, Iris went through multiple transformations, a testament to Google’s persistent ambition and innovation. The tech giant had fortified its team with the strategic acquisition of North in 2020. This Canadian firm, known for its expertise in AR eyewear, seemed to fit perfectly into Google’s vision for Iris. North’s device, the Focals, bore a striking resemblance to an early version of Iris. As the project advanced, Google even showcased Iris’s capabilities, which included state-of-the-art translation features.
However, the discontinuation of the Iris project marks a pivotal change in Google’s approach to augmented reality. The focus has now reportedly shifted from hardware production to developing a robust AR software platform. The hope is that this platform would be licensed to other manufacturers, allowing them to harness Google’s AR technology.
At the heart of this strategic change lies ‘Betty’, Google’s internal prototyping platform. The objective is to emulate the Android model for AR, with Google creating the software that other manufacturers could use to develop their hardware. Even with this major pivot, it’s noteworthy that some within Google still harbor the aspiration of reviving Iris someday. So, it might be too soon to write the obituary for the dream of a bona fide successor to Google Glass.