You may have thought Google Glass was dead, but the search giant has quietly resurrected its once-controversial smart glasses.
A new version of Glass has secretly been used by hundreds of employees at companies like GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen for the last two years, according to a report by Backchannel. The new Google Glass Enterprise Edition is designed with factory workers in mind.
In the Backchannel piece, author Steven Levy visits a tractor factory in rural Jackson, Minnesota, where factory workers use the glasses while working on an assembly line.
“Glass is not a hip way to hang apps in front of [the worker’s] eyeballs, but a tool — as much a tool as her power wrenches. It walks her through her shifts at Station 50 on the factory floor, where she builds motors for tractors,” Levy writes. “A typical task at [the factory] takes 70 minutes, broken into steps of three to five minutes. When a worker begins a step, it’s spelled out on the tiny screen. Menu items offer the options to go to the next step, take a picture, ask for help, and more. When a step is done, the worker says, ‘Okay, Glass, proceed,’ and the process repeats.”
The new version of Google Glass has several improvements over the original Explorer Edition, which Google made available to consumers in 2013. The company halted sales of that version in 2015 after it drew criticism and controversy, particular over its ability to surreptitiously record video.
- The camera button also functions as a release switch to remove the “Glass Pod,” which is the electronic part of the glasses, from the glasses frames.
- The Glass Pod can attach directly to safety glasses.
- The Pod can be used with prescription lenses. Backchannel even hypothesizes that popular glasses manufactures will start to make frames that are compatible with it.
- Extended battery life.
- A better camera.
- A faster processor and Wi-Fi, and better security.
- A red light that turns on while the glasses are recording
Google X, the company’s research and development arm, developed the Enterprise Edition of Glass. Google decided to make a new version of its augmented reality glasses, because many companies were already hacking the previous version and using it with custom software, Levy reports. Google has worked with developers to make enterprise software for the previous version of the glasses through the Glass at Work program.
Google has asked users of the new version to keep it under wraps.
“Perhaps because of the unhealed wounds of the consumer fiasco, Google asked customers not to reveal the existence of EE,” Levy wrote.