Google Glass gets a second chance in factories, where it’s likely to remain

Google Glass, the smart heads-up display and camera that was supposed to become everyone’s next portable computer, isn’t dead. It’s gotten a job — multiple jobs, in fact. The second iteration of Google Glass has been tested and deployed across many factories in the United States by companies such as Boeing, GE, and DHL, as first reported by NPR in March and today reiterated by a feature-length piece over at Wired. Dubbed Google Glass Enterprise Edition (EE), this is the same headset that we first saw in an FCC filing in 2015 and glimpsed again last summer being offered up on eBay.

The major upgrades between the original Glass and the enterprise version are a better camera (with resolution upgraded from 5 megapixels to 8), extended battery life, faster Wi-Fi and processor, and a new red light that turns on when recording video. The electronics of Glass have also been made modular in the shape of a so-called Glass Pod, which can be detached and reattached to any frame, including safety goggles and prescription glasses.

The scale of the Glass EE rollout is still small, with the Wired report indicating sales have been in the hundreds and most of the biggest customers have taken on Glass only on a trial basis. However, (Google parent company) Alphabet’s product managers sound bullish about the prospects of Glass in the workplace. Project lead Jay Kouthari is quoted as saying, “This isn’t an experiment. It was an experiment three years ago. Now we are in full-on production with our customers and with our partners.” Indeed, according to the latest report, the feedback from workers and companies has been overwhelmingly positive, with Glass providing assistive information on the work floor and improving productivity.

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But the approach and direction with this version of Google Glass are much more circumspect, as Astro Teller, the chief of Alphabet’s experimental X division, notes: “We’re not going to prejudge exactly what that path is […] We’ll focus on the places that are actually getting value out of that and go through the journey with them, being open-minded about where it’s going to go.”

Alphabet today lifts the non-disclosure requirement on its Glass EE partners and is opening up the program for more businesses to participate. The failure of Google’s augmented reality glasses as a mass market product, it seems, might spawn the success of Alphabet’s workplace-focused assistive device.

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