Remember Google Glass, the computer-enabled eyewear that gave rise to terms like "glassholes" and inspired anti-surveillance startups like Cyborg Unplug? Well, after a hiatus of more than two years, Google's wearable is back in the public eye as an updated technology designed exclusively for use in the workplace.
This time around, the computer-enabled eyewear that creeped out many people in social situations has received a much more positive reception from professionals in factories, hospitals, shipping, and other industries, according to the company. So early today, Google announced that it's making a new Glass Enterprise Edition (pictured above) available to businesses through a variety of partner companies.
Those partner companies will provide Glass-based hardware, along with their own specially developed software for specific workplace needs, to business customers whose employees could benefit from hands-free computing.
Among the tasks the new enterprise version could be used for: allowing technicians to consult maintenance manuals without having to step away from their work; helping doctors focus on conversations with patients rather than having to take notes that must be manually typed later; and enabling logistics workers to know exactly where to find items for packing and shipping.
Enabling Faster, Easier Work
Since moving Glass development outside of its Google X experimental labs and halting consumer sales of the device to early-adopting "Explorers" in early 2015, Google has worked with numerous companies that have used the technology to make workplace tasks faster and easier.
GE, for example, one of the first enterprise users of Glass, has been working with Google partner Upskill to deploy the wearable in multiple workplace environments. According to GE, technicians at its Pensacola, Florida, facility have seen a 34-percent increase in productivity since using Glass with Upskill's Skylight platform to assemble wind turbines.
"Now, there are more than 50 businesses, including AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health, NSF International, Sutter Health,The Boeing Company, and Volkswagen, who have been using Glass to complete their work faster and more easily than before," Google Glass project lead Jay Kothari wrote in a blog post today. "Based on the positive feedback we've received from these customers in a special program we've been running for the past two years, we're now making Glass Enterprise Edition available to more businesses through our network of partners."
Enterprise Uses, Costs Vary
Unveiled in 2013, the original Google Glass was initially available only to a select group of Explorers. The device was offered to the general public the following year, at the hefty price of $1,500.
Tech aficionados, medical professionals, and technicians found the wearable helpful for accessing digital information quickly and easily via a small display incorporated into the eyewear. For example, Dutch physician Marlies Schijven began blogging as the "GoogleGlassSurgeon" to describe the benefits she found in the tech's hands-free computing. However, some people found the device off-putting in social situations, in part because Glass enables users to take photos or videos of their surroundings without others' knowledge.
In January 2015, Google announced it was ending consumer sales and moving Glass to its own division for the next phase of the technology's development. Since then, the technology has enjoyed a quieter second life focused on enterprise users.
"[W]e've spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields," Kothari said. "We've also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it's lightweight and comfortable for long term wear. We've increased the power and battery life too."
Now available exclusively through Google's network of Glass partners, the updated enterprise device doesn't come with a standard price-tag. Instead, the cost will vary depending on the type of software customization, customer support, and training that users need, according to Google.