Google recently began working internally on its AR headset, called Project Iris, which it hopes to ship in 2024. Like Meta and Apple’s device, Google’s VR also uses outward-facing cameras to blend computer graphics with a real-world video feed, thus creating a more immersive mixed reality experience than Snap’s AR glasses and Magic Leap. The first prototypes developed in the San Francisco Bay Area resemble a pair of ski goggles and do not need to be plugged into an external power source.
In the details of the AR Project Iris viewer
Google’s headset is still early in development, and it appears to be powered by a proprietary processor from Google, just like the new Pixel 6 and 6 Pro smartphones. In fact, the team behind the smartphones is involved in some hardware components, but it is not clear whether the headset will also bear the iconic name.
The operating system appears to be Android but some recent job announcements indicate that it will have a dedicated operating system, now in the works. Given the power limits, the American giant plans to use its data centers to remotely render some graphics, and then transmit them to the VR via an internet connection.
Project Iris is a well-guarded project within Google and is tucked away in a building that requires access with a special key card and agreements that prohibit disclosure of information. The team working on the project is made up of 300 people, but the American giant plans to hire hundreds more. Overseeing it all is Clay Bavor, who reports directly to Sundar Pichai, also managing Project Starline (a very high-resolution video chat that was shown last year) and other departments.
Starline and Iris together in 2024?
Starline, he said of those who tried it, is one of the most impressive tech demos ever. It is able to recreate in 3D the person we are chatting with in a hyper-realistic way. In an eye-tracking test, Google found that people were about 15% more focused on who they were talking to, compared to a classic video call. A pilot program to use Starline to facilitate remote meetings is in the works with various Fortune 500 companies, looking to implement this in a hybrid post-pandemic business strategy.
According to what was stated by the two sources, Google hopes to ship Starline by 2024 together with Iris, but this is not necessarily the case. Bavor, the one behind this team, is however not new to this type of work. He has previously worked in the company’s VR and AR industry, starting with Google Cardboard and Daydream, as well as being a close friend of Pichai. Last November he was given the VP of Labs a mandate that includes Project Starline, Iris , a new blockchain division and Area 120.
There are many competitors in this field such as Apple, with thousands of people working in the VR and AR sector, and Meta which is already spending 10 billion dollars a year. For its part, Google bought, in mid-2020, a startup called North, which focused on incorporating AR into a normal-looking pair of glasses, and said the AR sector will be a major investment for them.
We just have to wait and see how things will evolve and, above all, if the giant will be able to finalize its goals by 2024, as stated.