Google is staking its vision for the future on what it’s calling “ambient computing,” according to Rick Osterloh, Google’s hardware chief.
“Computers should be able to help you with whatever you need seamlessly, and be all around you,” Osterloh said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday.
Earlier that day at its annual I/O conference, Alphabet Inc’s Google introduced a fleet of product updates and upcoming devices, including a new Pixel-branded tablet and smartwatch.
At the end of the event, Google teased a more audacious gadget: a pair of glasses that use its Google Translate service. In a video demo, an elderly mother who speaks Mandarin was able to understand her daughter’s English.
Google’s first attempt at internet-connected eyewear – Google Glass – was a famous flop that left the search giant more cautious about the futuristic field. In the decade since launching that device, Google has had skunkworks projects on similar augmented reality technology, but has kept most of its hardware line to more conventional smartphones, laptops and home speakers similar to rivals like Apple Inc.
“We learned so much from the introduction with Glass,” Osterloh said on Bloomberg TV. “We clearly learned how hard it is to develop this kind of technology, and learned a lot about what users care about, and what’s important.”
Osterloh did not share plans on when the AR glasses would be available to consumers, saying only that Google had “a number of engineers and developers continuing to build” the product for internal use. “It’s a bit of a ways off, but we are very much continuing to invest in the AR space,” he said.
But such a product plays a key role in Google’s ambient computing vision, Osterloh said. “You could see how wonderful it would be to have something on your face, that enables you to do real-time communication, to do translation to be able to live caption the world around you,” he said.
Smaller competitors Meta Platforms Inc and Snap Inc have released sleeker versions of AR glasses and Apple is working on the tech as well. Google also invested in Magic Leap, a startup that raised scores of cash to make an immersive reality headset but ended up pivoting to enterprise sales after failing to get traction.
Read: New high-speed trains planned for South Africa: minister