Alphabet and X1 announced Glass Enterprise Edition today, the successor to the Google Glass consumer product discontinued in 2015. This new version is aimed to improve the efficiency of factories.
Steven Levy for Wired:
That’s what Erickson wears every day. She works for AGCO, an agricultural equipment manufacturer that is an early adopter of Glass EE. For about two years, Glass EE has been quietly in use in dozens of workplaces, slipping under the radar of gadget bloggers, analysts, and self-appointed futurists. Yes, the population of those using the vaunted consumer version of Glass has dwindled, tired of being driven out of lounges by cocktail-fork-wielding patrons fearing unwelcome YouTube cameos. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been selling hundreds of units of EE, an improved version of the product that originally shipped in a so-called Explorer Edition in 2013. Companies testing EE—including giants like GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen—have measured huge gains in productivity and noticeable improvements in quality. What started as pilot projects are now morphing into plans for widespread adoption in these corporations. Other businesses, like medical practices, are introducing Enterprise Edition in their workplaces to transform previously cumbersome tasks.
Makes a lot of sense. To me, Glass is more of a HUD than a real AR experience, which is still cool. I could easily see how having a HUD while working on cars, machinery, even on people in the operating room would be extremely helpful. This is Glass’s rightful place.
The difference between the original Glass and the Enterprise edition could be summarized neatly by two images. The first is the iconic photo of Brin alongside designer Diane von Furstenberg at a fashion show, both wearing the tell-tale wraparound headband with display stub. The second image is what I saw at the factory where Erickson works, just above the Iowa state line and 90 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Workers at each station on the tractor assembly line—sporting eyewear that doesn’t look much different from the safety frames required by OSHA—begin their tasks by saying, “OK, Glass, Proceed.” When they go home, they leave their glasses behind.
Quite a contrast. Truly laughable, but necessary. Hopefully it taught us a lesson that not all wearables have to be trendy or fashionable. Maybe some wearables just need to be utilitarian. Although, if you want people to wear them everywhere, they better look good. Apple is rumored to be working on AR glasses in some form, and they would never make anything as ugly as Glass for the masses.
- Alphabet’s moonshot entity. ↩