It looks like Google’s troubled Glass smart eyewear project is being revived under a new name and with a newly expanded team in charge.
The Google Glass effort is now known as Project Aura inside Google and will focus on developing smart eyeglasses and other related wearable technology products, Business Insider reported Thursday.
Project Aura appears to have been launched in June, about six months after Google announced its decision to drop production of Glass. At that time, the company had suggested that the hiatus would be temporary while it worked on new and better versions of its smart glass technology. Google also announced at the time that it was pulling Google Glass from its semi-secret Project X division and making it a stand-alone unit inside the company.
According to Business Insider, Project Aura will remain inside Google, instead of being spun out as an independent business under the newly launched Alphabet holding company. Former Nest Chief Executive Tony Fadell will have broad oversight over the project as he does now, while Ivy Ross, a fashion industry executive that Google hired in 2014, will head Project Aura.
In addition, Google has so far hired three senior engineers from Lab126, a research and development organization owned by Amazon that is responsible for bringing several high-profile products to the market including the Kindle, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Echo. Business Insider identified the three Lab126 engineers who have joined Project Aura as Dmitry Svetlov, Amir Frenkel and Tina Chen. Former Apple engineer Max Ratner, who was part of the team that developed the iPhone has also joined the Project Aura group at Google, Business Insider reported. Google has advertised more open positions at Project Aura and has apparently even hired a recruiter to find suitable people to join the team.
Google launched Glass as a smart, Internet-connected eyewear technology that people could use to get information on any topic as they walked, drove or moved about. When the company first started making limited quantities of the $1,500 Glass available in April 2013, Google executives touted it as the harbinger of a new generation of wearable computing technology.
However, concerns over the potentially intrusive nature of the integrated camera on Google Glass, combined with what many regarded as the product’s general lack of readiness for prime-time consumer use, quickly doused the early excitement around the technology. From being regarded as a cutting-edge product, Google Glass quickly became a product banned in bars, theaters and other public places because of fears that Glass wearers could secretly record the people and activities around them using the built-in camera on the device.
The handful of Google Explorers brave enough to wear the technology publicly were labeled “glassholes,” an epithet that may have helped extinguish whatever little consumer interest there may have been in Glass.
In response to an eWEEK request for comment on Project Aura, Google said it had nothing to share about the effort at the moment.
It’s unclear how exactly the Project Aura team might revamp glass for the consumer market or how Google plans on overcoming some of the initial negative perceptions about the technology in the consumer segment.
But there are indications the company is focusing more attention on selling the technology to businesses, this time around. A Wall Street Journal report earlier this year quoted unnamed sources as saying Google had begun to quietly distribute a new version of Glass to workers in industries like health care, energy and manufacturing. The new workplace edition of Glass reportedly has a button and hinge mechanism that lets users attach the core-computing device to any glass, according to The Journal.