Google Glass 2

Google revisits Glass headset

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Nicholas Fearn

Google has launched the second iteration of its augmented reality headset four years after halting production of the original model. The product is aimed at the business market with implications for design and marketing.

When Google launched the first Glass headset in 2014, it wanted to transform the way people worked in a range of industries, including property, by providing hands-free access to critical information and tools.

However, just a year after releasing the headset to the public, the tech giant stopped sales of the device. Google never gave an explanation as to why it made this decision, but said it was “still committed” to the idea of smart glasses.

Fast forward to 2019, the firm wants a do-over. With Glass Enterprise Edition 2, Google said it would help businesses “further improve the efficiency of their employees”. And to ensure the device is a success and works for everyone, the firm is clear that it’s leveraged user feedback to “inform improvements”.

“Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is a wearable device that helps businesses improve the quality of their output, and help their employees work smarter, faster and safer,” explains Google on its website. “It provides hands-on workers and professionals with glanceable, voice-activated assistance that is designed to be worn all day with its comfortable, lightweight profile.”

AI to the rescue

Compared to the original version, Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is more powerful and, Google claims, can handle advanced tasks, including computer vision and machine learning. It’s built on Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, which sports a multi-core CPU (central processing unit) and artificial intelligence engine.

Jay Kothar, project lead at Glass, said: “This enables significant power savings, enhanced performance and support for computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities.

“We’ve also partnered with Smith Optics to make Glass-compatible safety frames for different types of demanding work environments, like manufacturing floors and maintenance facilities.”

Google has also improved the headset’s camera performance and quality with an 8-megapixel snapper, which it claims builds on its existing first-person video streaming and collaboration features. And added a USB-C port for faster charging and increased battery life.

The headset uses the Android operating system, something Google says makes it “easier for customers to integrate the services and APIs (application programming interfaces) they already use”. For more advanced and scaled deployments, there’s support for Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management.

Impact on property

Augmented reality headsets like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens are quickly gaining traction across the property sector. These devices are helping architects to visualise their designs, maintenance teams to identify and mitigate building problems, and agents to conduct viewings around a property virtually.

Dmitry Ogievich, CEO of computer vision startup Banuba, believes that augmented reality is an area of innovation that can yield exceptional results for the property industry. He tells PlaceTech: “By utilising a Google Glass/AR headset, or indeed a mobile camera-based app powered with augmented reality, agents are able to offer unprecedented levels of engagement when showing a prospective buyer a house.

“Sellers would be able to display information about the house from room sizes to window types or even whether a wall can be removed or not. AR would also enable users to visualise how their furniture would fit in the space and could help buyers to look past superficial things like wallpaper or flooring, as they could display a colour or material they prefer.

“Agents would also be able to track how long a buyer has looked at and engaged with certain areas of the property. This would help them better address any concerns that the buyer may not have vocalised. It’s important to remember that the use of an AR headset not only provides a more engaging experience, but is way more fun too.”

Dominic Collins, CEO of Darabase, an AR database for property owners to manage advertising campaigns in their space, said there are a number of interesting aspects to Google’s launch of the new Google Glass device. He explained: “Firstly, like Microsoft’s more powerful HoloLens, it is targeted squarely at business users for now. The ability to layer digital models and images into a physical context clearly has huge potential for the design, architecture and property industry. Tellingly the technology can be attached to safety glasses too, bringing it on site.

“Secondly, Google has shifted the business unit working on Google Glass from the more experimental X division of parent company Alphabet back into the Google mothership. This is a clear statement of intent that along with their other big plays in AR, like the new Google Maps AR and Android’s AR Core operating system, smart wearables are going to play a big part of Google’s future strategy. I’m excited to see how this new, more powerful device is adopted in the industry and how Google might bring other innovation, like Lens, to work on the device.”

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