Meta could be the most visible firm developing AR and VR devices, and though many other big companies are working on the same, or similar devices, we can’t forget about Google. The search engine has begun ramping up work on an AR headset lately, internally called Project Iris, intending for it to be completed in 2024.
What we know so far
Google’s device, like Meta and Apple’s upcoming headsets, uses outward-facing cameras to integrate computer visuals with a video stream of the actual world, delivering a more immersive mixed reality experience than existing AR glasses like Snap and Magic Leap.
Google’s headset is still in its early stages of development, with no clear go-to-market strategy in place, suggesting that the 2024 goal date is more aspirational than concrete.
The hardware, like the company’s newest Google Pixel smartphone, is powered by a special Google CPU, and runs on Android. However, recent job advertisements suggest that a new operating system is in the works. Given the limited power available, Google’s idea is to leverage its data centers to produce some visuals remotely, and send them to the headset over an internet connection.
Project Iris is a well guarded Google secret, housed in a building with unique keycard access and non-disclosure agreements. The headset’s core team numbers around 300 individuals, with Google planning to add hundreds more.
All this secrecy could mean one thing — Project Iris, if Starline is any indicator, may be a technological marvel. Starline, according to many who have tried it, is one of the most astounding tech demos ever. It claims to be hyper-realistic in its capacity to reconstruct who you’re conversing with in 3D. In an eye-tracking test with employees, Google discovered that using Starline instead of a regular video call, participants focused 15% more on the person they were talking to.
Google’s history with AR
Google’s interest in augmented reality extends back to its investment in Magic Leap. The Magic Leap investment was made with the intention of being able to buy the firm later if it figured out a feasible path to mass-market AR devices.
However, it’s uncertain whether Google will invest as heavily as Meta in AR devices, which already spends $10 billion per year on AR and VR. Thousands of people are working on Apple’s headgear and a more futuristic pair of AR glasses. Google appears to be playing catch-up unless it proves otherwise.
In other related news, Meta is testing out ads within its VR headsets.
Photo via Sony