Google reportedly is developing an augmented reality headset – SiliconANGLE
Google LLC is developing an augmented reality headset that will feature a custom chip and could make its debut in 2024, The Verge reported today.
The headset is reportedly known by the internal codename Project Iris. Google is said to have assigned about 300 staffers to work on the device and plans to hire hundreds more for the initiative. The scope of the project suggests that the AR market is emerging as a major focus for the search giant.
Google is reportedly targeting a 2024 launch date for Project Iris. However, it’s believed that the headset may only debut later because it’s “still early in development” and the company has not yet created a “clearly defined go-to-market strategy.”
Though some of the technology building blocks necessary to build the headset are not yet ready, Google has already assembled several prototypes. The devices are described as resembling a pair of ski goggles and can reportedly operate without having to be connected to an external power source.
Current Project Iris prototypes run on Google’s Android operating system. However, job listings posted by the company reportedly hint that the headset might launch not with Android but rather a custom software platform optimized for AR.
Google is currently developing an operating system called Fuchsia that features extensive cybersecurity optimizations, as well as capabilities designed to facilitate simple software updates. If Google opts not to ship Project Iris with Android, it may use Fuchsia to power the device. Another possibility is that the search giant may develop an entirely new operating system, perhaps based on the Linux kernel, which it used as the foundation for Android.
On the hardware side, Google reportedly plans to equip its AR headset with a custom chip.
Few details are available about the chip except that it will provide only a part of the device’s processing capacity. The rest will reportedly be provided by Google’s cloud data centers. The plan is to render AR content in the cloud and stream it to Project Iris headsets over an internet connection, The Verge’s sources said.
Offloading processing tasks to the cloud would allow Google to equip Project Iris with a less speedy, and consequently less power-intensive, chip than would be necessary for local rendering. Using a less power-intensive chip could help the search giant increase the headset’s battery life.
Some of the lessons that Google gleaned while developing the custom processor powering its latest Pixel smartphones could be useful for Project Iris. Power efficiency is a major priority in the development of mobile processors. Power efficiency is also important for “internet of things” chips, a market where Google has a presence as well with its Coral processor line.
The internally developed chip Google reportedly plans to use in Project Iris will likely not be the only custom hardware component to ship with the headset. According to today’s report, the search giant recently posted multiple job listings related to waveguides, which are commonly used as AR headset displays.
Snapchat operator Snap Inc., another company active in the AR hardware market, has also been working to enhance its waveguide technology. The company last year spent more $500 million to acquire Wave Optics Ltd., a maker of displays and other optical components for AR glasses. WaveOptics is a major producer of waveguides.
Earlier, Google acquired Canadian smart glasses startup North Inc. in 2020 through a deal reportedly valued at $180 million. The transaction bought Google a technology developed by North that uses a laser projector attached to the frame of an AR headset to display content for users. The technology could potentially prove useful for Project Iris.
If and when the Project Iris headset launches, Google could face competition from several of its fellow tech giants. Meta Platforms Inc. is developing AR glasses for the consumer market, while Apple Inc. reportedly plans to join the fray as well.
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