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Google Glass gets a surprise upgrade and new frames

The Enterprise Edition 2 has a Qualcomm speed boost, USB-C, and they can be worn as glasses.

Robert Couto

It's 2019, and guess what? Google just unveiled its newest version of Glass. It's not made to be a widespread consumer product, but there are business users who will care. And the latest Glass Enterprise Edition 2, with key upgraded specs, shows where most smartglasses are at.

You might remember Glass as a strange 2013 footnote, but Glass has stuck around: it became an enterprise-targeted device in 2017, and has been used in a variety of other assistive ways.

Plenty of other AR headsets have been moving into the enterprise space over the last couple of years too, from Microsoft HoloLens 2 to Vuzix' glasses.

While the single-display design of Glass isn't going to allow 3D augmented reality like what you'd experience on HoloLens 2, there could be applications for other types of useful augmented reality via the improved built-in camera and upgraded onboard processor. Google's announcement touts the new onboard Qualcomm XR1 chip as enabling "support for computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities."

Google Glass Photography
Robert Couto

Maybe Google's recent focus on AR as a utility could, perhaps, carry over to the newest version of Glass in some ways. 

Google representatives refused to comment on whether that means the new Glass could possibly adopt some Google Lens-like features, and Google's VP of VR and AR, Clay Bavor, said in a statement that "Using technologies like computer vision and AR, our team's focus has been on building helpful experiences that provide useful information in context. Glass Enterprise Edition 2 does just that, and we're excited to give businesses and their employees tools to help them work better, smarter and faster."

Lots of upgrades

The latest version of Google Glass Enterprise Edition runs off a faster Qualcomm XR1 chip, a low-power processor designed for lightweight AR and VR devices unveiled last year. It also has USB-C charging.

The latest Glass is compatible with new Smith safety glass frames, which can make it compatible in more workplaces (and look a little more normal), with other frames options coming later on, according to Google. The new hardware also charges faster, has better battery life, better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a better camera and it supports Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management for the first time. The voice-based and touch-enabled design still remain similar to previous versions.

The new hardware also comes with a new home: Glass is being moved back to Google proper with this newest update, after the team shifted to Alphabet's X division in 2017. Jay Kothari, Project Lead for Glass, said "to meet the demands of the growing market for wearables in the workplace, the Glass team has moved from X to Google in order to better scale our enterprise efforts moving forward."

Google's Glass customers and partners currently include AGCO, DHL Group, HB Fuller, and Sutter Health. The enterprise cost for Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is $999, but the hardware isn't being sold directly to customers. Instead, partners sell specially designed use cases as needed.

Google Glass, in enterprise, no longer seems strange at all.