Google quietly ended its eyeglass-mounted Google Glass program on Jan. 19, before it ever offered the devices to the public for retail sales, but its recent filings with the Federal Communications Commission could be early evidence the company is working on a next-generation version of the devices.
In a May 15 letter to the FCC’s laboratory, Google notified the agency that it had designated UL Verification Services Inc. to act as Google’s agent in all matters pertaining to an application for equipment authorization for a product with the FCC ID number of A4R-GG1, according to a July 2 report by Droid Life. So far, very little is known about the product or the application, but the GG1 suffix in the FCC ID number could stand for Google Glass, leading the story to surmise that this might involve the next iteration of Google Glass in the future.
Other documents filed with the letter designating UL Verification Services also include a document called a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) Evaluation Report, which measures the rate of radio frequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the human body from mobile or other devices, according to the FCC. A SAR report includes data that is used to show a product’s performance in meeting the safety guidelines set by the FCC for electronic devices.
The Google application to the FCC is vague in that it does not identify the pending product with a usual description such as a wearable or smartphone. Instead, the application only identifies the application as pertaining to a device with “BLUETOOTH & DTS/UNII a/b/g/n/ac,” according to the SAR Evaluation report.
Interestingly, Google also included a separate letter dated May 15, which requests that its application for the device with FCC ID number A4R-GG1 also be reviewed with confidentiality by the agency, particularly in terms of the mysterious product’s diagrams, schematics, theory of operation and antenna specifications.
“We request that all of the information contained in the above referenced exhibits to the certification application be withheld from routine public disclosure,” Google requested in its letter. “The market for the technology that is the subject of the certification application is highly competitive, with numerous companies competing for the business of potential customers. Were our competitors to become aware of the facts set forth in the above referenced exhibits to the application at this time, it could have an adverse impact on our competitive standing and deprive us of the marketplace benefit we otherwise might achieve by virtue of having the product available before other competitors.”
Google did not immediately respond to an eWEEK request for comment about the company’s recent FCC application.
Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived on the tech scene when the company showed off the devices at the June 2012 Google I/O developers conference. Google Glass is a futuristic eyewear-mounted computer that provides 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 still-fledgling 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.
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.
Google May Be Working on Its Next Google Glass Project
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 Google Glass 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 Glass devices.
In Boston, emergency room doctors in a busy hospital used Glass to get patient information much faster, while also allowing doctors to focus more on their patients instead of on computers, according to an April 2014 eWEEK report. The Glass pilot project, conducted at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, involved 10 ER doctors sharing four Glass devices in an often chaotic metropolitan hospital emergency room. The devices helped free up doctors from the distraction of using nearby computer terminals by allowing them to truly focus on their patients and give more personalized care, according to the participants in the pilot.
Also experimenting with Glass was Virgin Atlantic airlines, which conducted trials in early 2014 to see how Glass and similar wearable computing devices could help airline employees assist passengers throughout all phases of travel, including boarding and in-flight, according to a February 2014 eWEEK report. The airline’s six-week Google Glass pilot project was conducted at London’s Heathrow airport and was visible to passengers as they arrived for their flights.
Virgin personnel wearing Glass devices greeted Upper Class passengers by name at the airport and checked them in for their flights, according to Virgin. Airline personnel were also able to update the incoming passengers about their latest flight information and weather details, as well as about local events at their destinations. Using Glass, Virgin personnel were able to translate any foreign language information their passengers needed.
As such technologies continue to be refined in the future, airline personnel could eventually even gain the ability to determine their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences by using Google Glass or other devices to access their records.
Virgin’s testing with Glass came on the heels of a related experiment with Glass by the New York Police Department, which began trials in December 2013 to see how the devices could be used in police work.
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.