Glass Is Back, and This Time It’s All Business

A reinvigorated and redesigned Glass reportedly has been sighted in the enterprise sector. Google earlier this year closed down the Glass Explorer program, proclaiming that the augmented reality wearable was "graduating" from the company's clandestine Google X labs to a brand-new division of its own. Since then, Google has offered vague reassurances from time to time that the product was not dead.

A reinvigorated and redesigned Glass has been sighted in the enterprise sector, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Google gave Glass a sedate commencement address earlier this year when it closed down the Glass Explorer program, proclaiming that the augmented reality wearable was “graduating” from the company’s clandestine Google X labs to a brand-new division of its own. Since then, Google has held its cards close to its chest, offering vague reassurances from time to time that the product was not dead.

Glass developers have been busy, it seems — the company now is offering Glass Enterprise Edition exclusively to businesses, based on the Journal’s report.

Rather than an official launch, Google apparently has chosen a quiet rollout and expects to see broad enterprise adoption this fall.

This latest version of Glass takes on a different form factor than the US$1,500 model offered to consumers in Google’s Glass Explorer program. The Enterprise Edition comes with a clip that can be mounted onto most any pair of glasses. Also, its processing power has been given a buff.

The Enterprise Edition

As people pondered the fate of Glass, rumors began circulating that Google was working with Intel to replace its Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 processor with an Intel Atom processor.

The Enterprise Edition is quite a transformation for the oft-ridiculed and mistrusted consumer version of Glass, though the refocusing makes sense. Google invested heavily in its Glass at Work program, which courted enterprises and developers.

With Google’s focus squarely on business this time around, Glass likely will be more successful, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“First and foremost, the value of Google Glass depends in large part on context and situation,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “That is, Glass provides easy or seamless access to information that enhances a user’s localized experience. That makes more sense in a contained workplace than it does if someone’s simply walking the streets.”

Clearing the streets of Glass and incubating it in workplace settings could help to change the general perception of the wearable tech, according to King. Because there were no LEDs to indicate that the glasses were recording, Glass Explorers were given a tough time just for wearing Glass, in some cases.

“Using Glass for work also implies acceptance and buy-in by employees and management, meaning that Google won’t face the kind of blowback it did when clueless Glass Explorers — commonly referred to as ‘Glassholes’ — used the devices in public places, like restaurants and bars, where other patrons felt like they were being spied upon.”

Augmented Reality in the Enterprise

Things have changed while Glass was away. Around the same time Google announced it was taking what it learned from the Explorer program to rework Glass, Microsoft introduced HoloLens.

Microsoft paired HoloLens with Minecraft to pique the imaginations of those attending or streaming its January Windows 10 event, and since has shown off the AR headset’s utility in business and education.

One of the most obvious applications for HoloLens at work is in the creative and design fields, as it has the ability to blend 3D objects into real-world scenes in real time. The use cases are still being scripted.

Another compelling possibility is using AR in connection with legal matters, according to David Kurzman, COO of the Magna Legal Services litigation consulting group.

There’s a “CSI” effect — that is, more visual content could help judges and jurors make better-informed decisions, he suggested.

“Jurors expect information to be presented in a way that accommodates them,” Kurzman told the E-Commerce Times. “This is especially true with today’s jury groups being comprised of more Generation X- and Y-ers — two groups who thrive in an environment where news and information are presented in a visually compelling manner.”

There are, of course, military applications for AR, and cases are being made its use in retail, law enforcement, customer service and other sectors.

For now, though there’s enough of a distinction between the flavors of AR offered by HoloLens and Google Glass that any overlap in the enterprise isn’t likely to pit them against one another, according to King.

“If anything, I believe that HoloLens is a bigger threat to Oculus VR,” he said. “If HoloLens gains traction and takes off, it could be a costly defeat for Oculus, especially considering the premium that Facebook paid for the technology.”

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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