The consensus has long been that Google Glass was ahead of its time. But in recent years, much of the world has since circled the company in the AR department. To wrap up today’s I/O keynote, the company showed off what may well be a spiritual successor to the hardware. As CEO Sundar Pichai noted, this is just a first look at what the company has been working on, but the demo video certainly looks promising.
The problem with the original portable version was twofold. First: the material was simply not ready. Second: The company never quite cracked the “why” of the product — certainly enough to justify its price tag. For these reasons, it never went too far beyond the developer community.
Enough time has passed to tackle the first part. As for the second, today’s video answers the question quite convincingly: translation. It remains to be seen how complete these specs would be if they ever hit the market, but live IRL captioning in a portable heads-up display is a big deal, if executed correctly.
The video is a stark contrast to the bombast of Glass’ original I/O announcement. No more skydivers and extreme sports enthusiasts. In their place is a low-key promo that demonstrates real value.
“Language is so fundamental to connecting with each other. Still, understanding someone who speaks a different language or trying to follow a conversation if you’re deaf or hard of hearing can be a real challenge,” Pichai told the crowd. “Let’s see what happens when we take our advancements in translation and transcription and deliver it to your line of sight in one of our first prototypes. »
Unlike the deluge of Pixel ads, Google makes no promises that such a product will ever hit the market. Today’s I/O debut was, no doubt, a way to gauge interest in a product that isn’t quite done. The video included a “simulated point of view” of what such a display might look like, allowing the speaker to look directly at a subject, while reading their words.
Questions about efficiency, pricing and more remain, but if the execution is there, it’s easy to see real value in a product that marries AR hardware with the company’s longstanding work in translation and transcription software. If nothing else, it’s one of the most compelling use cases we’ve seen for a wearable AR display. If Google could find such useful implementations for things like Maps, it could possibly have a winner on its hands here.