- Google is rumored to be reviving Google glass as Project Aura.
- Google hired engineers away from Amazon and continues to recruit top talent for Project Aura.
- Google Glass, now Aura, is a big and very fundamental platform for Google like the self-driving car.
- Aura is much more than a wearable gadget, it's a technology platform for ubiquitous computing and Augmented Reality (AR).
- Google is likely to successfully promote Aura as a must-have wearable device.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is accelerating its efforts to develop wearable technology and reviving Google Glass as Project Aura, according to rumors first reported yesterday by Business Insider. Google declined to comment, but the rumors seem solid and have been commented and analyzed by major technology and investment news outlets.
Google has hired at least three employees from Lab126, a hardware division at Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), to work in the new group and Aura has a dedicated recruiter tasked with bringing in more talent. Project Aura will remain within Google for the time being, rather than becoming a standalone company under the new Alphabet holding company.
A Google job posting in June mentioned "Project Aura, Glass and Beyond," and added that "the Google Glass division is a world-class team focused on the cutting edge of hardware, software and industrial design. It is charged with pioneering, developing, building and launching smart eye-wear and other related products in line with Google's ambitious and visionary objectives."
The Wall Street Journal reports that Dmitry Svetlov, a software development manager who joined Aura in August from Lab126, described the project on Linkedin. "Software Development Manager at Google, Project Aura : Glass & beyond," states Svetlov's Linkedin profile.
Google started selling a prototype of Google Glass in April 2013 to qualified "Glass Explorers" for $1,500, then it made it available to the public in May 2014 for the same price. Google stopped selling Glass in January 2015 and admitted that the device was released before it was ready for consumers. But in March Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal that Google would continue developing Glass, because the technology is too important to scrap.
“It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google,” said Schmidt. "We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us canceling the whole project, which isn’t true. Google is about taking risks and there’s nothing about adjusting Glass that suggests we’re ending it."
Schmidt made an analogy between Glass and Google's self-driving car project, both of which are long-term projects. "That’s like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now," he said. "These things take time."
Wired suggests the Aura group will collaborate directly with other Google projects for next-generation interfaces, including the low-cost, entry-level Virtual Reality (VR) viewer Cardboard and Soli, next 'real world gestures' interface concepts.
It's important to realize that Glass - now Aura - is much more than a wearable gadget. It's a technology platform for "ubiquitous computing" that, besides displaying information streamed from a smartphone in a convenient hands-free way, responds to voice and gesture commands, snaps pictures and videos at the blink of an eye, and can be used as a light Augmented Reality (AR) headset to display street directions, navigation aids and annotations while the user walks.
TechCrunch reported in April that the virtual and augmented reality market will reach $150 billion of annual revenue by 2020. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) made a strong claim to AR leadership with the HoloLens self-contained "face computer," which resembles a pair of ski goggles and displays holograms over the real world. The HoloLens video is impressive and hints at sci-fi-like computing, but Google's Project Aura can provide a useful subset of AR capabilities in a light wearable device that can be used at work or in the street.
It seems likely that Google will be able to leverage its leading position in mobile operating systems and early Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies for voice, gesture and scene recognition to offer a compelling user experience and successfully promote Aura as a must-have wearable device. Therefore, this development reinforces Google's position as a buy-and-hold tech stock.
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