Google Glass, one of Google's most spectacular consumer flops, is making a comeback, this time in the form of a wearable computer designed specifically for use in industry and health care.
Glass Enterprise Edition is a lightweight computer with a transparent display that can be clipped onto a pair of eyeglasses or safety goggles. The technology is designed to give individuals a way to access information via their eyeglasses and view it within their line of sight.
The goal is to give workers in multiple industries such as manufacturing, health care and logistics a way to instantly access information they require for their jobs while their hands are busy. For example, a worker might use Glass to pull up instructions and how-to videos while repairing a product or a mechanic might consult a checklist of items or things to do when assembling a system.
More than 50 companies, including GE Aviation, The Boeing Company, Volkswagen, Sutter Health and NSF International have been testing and using Glass Enterprise Edition for the past two years under a special Google program, Glass project lead Jay Kothari said in a blog. The positive feedback from those users has prompted Google parent Alphabet's semi-secret X labs to make the smart glasses available to more organizations, he said.
Google had originally positioned Glass as a wearable computer for consumers. But it failed to gain much traction as a result of poor marketing, an aesthetically unappealing design, a relative lack of use cases, privacy concerns and a $1,500 initial price tag. In early 2015 Google announced that it was stopping efforts to push the product to consumers and taking it back to the lab for more work.
In the two years since then, Google X has been working with a network of more than 30 partners to build specialized software for use with Glass Enterprise Edition, according to Kothari.
GE workers for instance are using Glass with software from Google partner Upskill to access instructional videos and animations when assembling and repairing airplane engines. DHL has been using Glass along with software from Ubimax to receive real-time instruction and visual aids on where to place specific items.
Doctors at Dignity Health have been using a Glass specific application from Google partner Augmedix to take notes in the background while speaking with patients, Kothari said. The technology has helped to dramatically reduce the time needed to type patient notes freeing up more time for patient care.
In addition to working with partners, Google X has made some physical changes to the technology as well to make it more palatable for use in a work setting. Glass Enterprise edition for instance is more lightweight than its predecessor and has been designed in such a way as to ensure comfort during long-term use. Google has also reduced Glass' power consumption and improved battery life as well.
"We first saw signs of Glass’ potential for businesses in the Glass Explorer days," Kothari said referring to the original consumer-oriented product strategy for the technology. "We'd been seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace," he said.