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Revamped Google Glass 2 aims more powerful AR at the enterprise

Google this week updated its workplace-focused Glass augmented reality (AR) headset, offering a more powerful processor and improved camera - a "significant improvement" over its predecessor, according Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Google unveiled the consumer version of Glass in 2013 to much fanfare, but little commercial success. It was relaunched as Glass Enterprise Edition two years ago, after Google decided the headset was better suited to workers who need hands-free computing - such as in manufacturing, logistics and healthcare. Development was also moved to the X "moonshot" division within Google's parent company, Alphabet. 

With the launch of the latest version, Glass Enterprise Edition 2, the Glass team has now returned to the core business, the company said in a blog post. 

Glass 2 gets processor and battery boost 

While there is no significant departure from the original design, the new Android-based device boasts a variety of hardware improvements, including the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 chip. Google said the processor supports machine-learning algorithms on the device for improved computer vision.

An 820mAh battery should extend use to around eight hours, Google said, while a USB-C connection supports fast charging. Glass 2 also includes an 8MP camera designed to provide better first-person video streaming; a 640x360-pixel display and three microphones. 

The company also said it has made it easier for IT admins to manage and deploy devices with support for Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management. 

A full list of specs for the Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is available online. The devices and associated software cost $999 and are sold through partners; pricing varies, however, depending on customization and support requirements. 

"I believe that this is a significant upgrade over the original Glass Enterprise Edition," said Sag. He said the earlier version was "woefully underpowered and ran way too hot." 

While the original Glass relied on out-of-date hardware, using a 2011 smartphone system-on-chip (SoC) for its 2013 launch, Sag argued that Google has learned from past mistakes. "The new XR1 inside the Glass 2 was announced last year for devices launching this year, so it really feels like Google is paying more attention to hardware this time," said Sag.

"Glass was one of their earlier forays into hardware and I believe Glass 2 shows how much they've learned as a company in designing and building hardware."

Enterprise adoption more promising than consumer

While AR devices have struggled in consumer markets, businesses have begun to test use cases for them around training, remote assistance and collaboration. 

That's led to growing interest from vendors. Glass competes with a growing range of AR and mixed reality devices aimed at the enterprise. Rivals include larger headsets such as Microsoft's HoloLens 2 and Lenovo's recently announced ThinkReality headset, as well as lighter "smart glasses" more akin to Google's device, such as Vuzix's M400, which uses similar hardware.

Among the large organizations that have deployed Google Glass Enterprise Edition are logistics firm DHL and manufacturers AGCO and H.B. Fuller. 

"With the second generation of Glass Enterprise Edition, we can now provide our customers and employees with even more powerful, technically optimized smart glasses," Markus Voss, COO and CIO at DHL Supply Chain, said in a statement. "The possibility of object recognition is also particularly promising for us in industrial applications. With the corresponding software, it is no longer just possible to read out barcodes, locate products and display the corresponding storage compartment; in [the] future, ...complex objects can be identified with the smart glasses." 

The revamped Glass Enterprise Edition 2 could push adoption of Google's hardware, which has so far largely been limited to smaller deployments. 

"To be honest, I have not seen much traction for Google with the original Glass Enterprise Edition to date," said Sag. "I believe that it suffered from fundamentally inferior hardware and a pretty negative reputation from their launch that I would argue was poorly executed."

In contrast, he expects Glass 2 to be "well received."

This story, "Revamped Google Glass 2 aims more powerful AR at the enterprise" was originally published by Computerworld.