Last month, Google rolled out a software update for its Glass headset - the first update for the device in more than two and a half years. Google ended sales of its Glass Explorer Edition headset in January 2015, but Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt denied that the device had been killed off, and said that it was simply being "made ready for users".
So little has been heard about Glass since then that many had assumed it had gone to the great tech graveyard in the sky. But today, Alphabet's experimental X division revealed a new version of the headset, targeting business customers. Behold, the new Glass Enterprise Edition.
The new headset offers a range of improvements compared with the previous Explorer Edition, including an 8MP camera, compared with the 5MP camera on the older device. It promises faster and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity too, along with a larger display prism, and a faster Intel Atom processor. "We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long term wear," said Jay Kothari, Project Lead for Glass. "We’ve increased the power and battery life too."
Kothari said that Alphabet has "spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions" to make Glass enterprise-ready. Over 50 businesses - including Boeing, Volkswagen, DHL, Dignity Health, and many others - are now using Glass.
One of the first companies to use Glass in its operations was GE Aviation, which ran software from Upskill on the headset to provide diagrams, instructions, videos, animations and images to engineers as they work, helping them with the process of maintaining aircraft engines. Kothari said GE estimates that using the headsets has improved its engineers' efficiency by around 8-12%, and reduced the number of errors made when overhauling these complex machines.
You may recall that, last year, Microsoft announced a similar partnership with Japan Airlines, even showing an on-stage demo of how its HoloLens augmented reality headset is being used by the carrier to train the mechanics and engineers who maintain its fleet of over 170 planes. The renewed push by Alphabet into the enterprise space with Glass will put fresh pressure on Microsoft to accelerate its HoloLens efforts; its headset is still officially sold as a 'Development Edition' device, and its next HoloLens model is not expected until 2019.
Kothari said that the Glass team will be "collaborating with the Google Cloud team and our partners to help customers across a variety of business sectors make the most of Glass."
Editor's note: This article was updated after publishing to clarify that the new 'Glass Enterprise Edition' headset is not Google-branded, and is a new product, entirely separate from the earlier Google Glass Explorer Edition.