Google Glass, Google’s first attempt at augmented reality, did not generate the goodwill the search giant hoped it would. Privacy advocates raised a stink shortly after the debut of the $1,500 glasses in 2013, concerned that its built-in camera would record people without their knowledge. Citing lack of developer interest and lukewarm sales, Google killed the Glass website and social media accounts and put a hold on sales. But the project is not dead yet.
On Wednesday, Google Glass received its first software update in three years. Version XE23 of the hardware’s firmware fixes bugs and improves performance, according to the changelog. But it also adds support for Bluetooth input devices — now, Google Glass can pair with keyboards, mice, controllers, and more.
In addition to the new firmware, Google Glass’s companion smartphone app, MyGlass, has been updated to target version 5.1 of Android’s operating system (meanwhile, Google is working on Android O — version 8). It supports Android’s Notification Listener Service, a software plugin which syncs notifications directly to Glass from a paired phone, and optionally disables Android’s battery-saving Doze mode so the app works in the background when the phone sleeps.
The update is likely intended Google Glass for Work, Google’s enterprise-focused Glass platform aimed at factories, hospitals, and other industrial environments. The latest version of Google Glass, the Enterprise Edition, is a lot more rugged than the original, and reportedly packs a larger display, Intel’s low-power Atom processor, external battery packs, and a hinge mechanism that allows it to fold like a normal pair of glasses.
Or it could point to a new Glass. After Glass’s shutdown in 2015, Google “graduated” the program to its Nest hardware division. The secretive Glass reboot, made up of a team of engineers, software developers, and project managers from Amazon’s Lab126 skunkworks, was described by The New York Times as a “redesign […] from scratch.” But it never materialized.
Since then, the competition’s swooped in. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, a self-contained heads-up display with Windows-powered AR tech, maps digital objects to physical spaces. And Sony’s SmartEyeglasses beam notifications from an Android device to an eye-level lens.
Others may jump on the bandwagon too. Apple is reportedly developing AR glasses with motion sensors, DC motors that produce sound via bone conduction, and a touch-sensitive strip on the arm that navigates around its software. Messaging app Snapchat, meanwhile, is said to be prototyping AR hardware of its own.