Google Glass Returning With a Workplace Edition

Google Glass isn't dead and, in fact, is now coming back as a workplace-targeted tool for enterprises, according to reports.

Google Glass, wearable computers, wearables, Glass for Work, headwear mounted computers

The previous beta version of Google Glass may no longer be in production, but the company has certainly not dropped the idea of a headwear-mounted computer. In fact, the company is now "quietly distributing" a new version of Glass aimed at workers in industries such as health care, manufacturing and energy, according to a July 30 article in The Wall Street Journal.

The latest workplace version of Google Glass is "a curved rectangle, similar to the first Explorer version, but does not include a wire-like frame," according to the report, which was based on interviews with people who are familiar with the plans. "Instead, it has a button-and-hinge system to attach the mini-computer to different glasses, the people said."

There won't be an official launch for the workplace version of Glass, which is only being made available to businesses, The Journal reported. A consumer version could be a year or so away from reality, the sources said.

Google is distributing the new devices to software developers so they will build applications that can allow the new Glass to be used in workplaces, according to The Journal. The tech giant hopes companies will use the new Glass by the fall, the sources said.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since the original version was first shown off at the June 2012 Google I/O developers conference. The original Google Glass was a futuristic eyewear-mounted computer that provided its wearer with heads-up information, notifications, photo and video capabilities and much more.

The first beta Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up to buy a set at the Google I/O event for $1,500 for testing and development. Google eventually began shipping beta Glass units to any users who wanted to buy the devices for $1,500 through a Google Glass Explorer program that aimed to gather more input and experience with such devices from a larger pool of beta users.

Google said in January that it was not killing off the project, but wanted to take more time to work on the concept and perhaps bring it back in another form after what amounts to an indefinite hiatus.

Each Google Glass device of the first generation included adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also featured a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio was delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.

Earlier in July, a Google filing with the Federal Communications Commission provided clues that the company has been working on a next-generation version of the devices.

There have been several very public controversies involving Google Glass, as well. In January 2014, a network administrator from Columbus, Ohio, was removed from a movie theater and questioned by federal authorities over concerns that he was using the Google Glass on his head to film a bootleg copy of the movie being shown in the theater, eWEEK reported at the time. Eventually, the man was freed when he was able to prove that he had not used Glass to capture the film illegally. While he was detained, he was subjected to detailed questioning about his activities in the theater and about his use of Google Glass.

That incident followed the case of a California driver who was stopped and cited for speeding in October 2013 when she drove and was wearing a Glass device. The driver, Cecelia Abadie of Temecula, Calif., was cited in October 2013 as she drove home from San Diego, but her case was dismissed in January 2014, when during her trial, a judge ruled that the arresting officer had not observed her actually using the head-mounted computer.

Concerns about Google Glass and the law had surfaced even before both of these cases. Google Glass occasionally made headlines across the United States when bars, restaurants and other public facilities posted signs banning the use of the wearable technology on their premises due to privacy and other issues.

At the same time, many organizations—including hospitals, airlines, manufacturing companies and even schools—experimented with Google Glass devices.

In April 2014, Google began a "Glass at Work" program to encourage businesses to learn more about how Glass might be integrated in useful ways for their employees and business processes. The Glass at Work program sought developers to get involved with the effort to build more applications that could help businesses use Glass in their operations.