Google’s second trial at computer glasses translates conversations in real time
The science-fiction is harder to see in Google’s second try at glasses with a built-in computer.
A decade after the debut of Google Glass, a nubby, sci-fi-looking pair of specs that filmed what wearers saw but raised concerns about privacy and received low marks for design, the Alphabet Inc unit on Wednesday previewed a yet-unnamed pair of standard-looking glasses that display translations of conversations in real-time and showed no hint of a camera.
The new augmented-reality pair of glasses was just one of several longer-term products Google unveiled at its annual Google I/O developer conference aimed at bridging the real world and the company’s digital universe of search, Maps, and other services using the latest advances in artificial intelligence.
“What we’re working on is a technology that enables us to break down language barriers, taking years of research in Google Translate and bringing that to glasses,” said Eddie Chung, a director of product management at Google, calling the capability “subtitles for the world.”
Selling more hardware could help Google increase profit by keeping users in its network of technology, where it does not have to split ad sales with device makers such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics CO that help distribute its services.
Google also teased a tablet to be launched in 2023 and a smartwatch that will go on sale late this year, as it unveils a strategy to offer a group of products comparable to Apple.
But Google’s hardware business remains small, with its global market share in smartphones, for instance, under 1%, according to researcher IDC. Recently launched challengers in the search along with ongoing antitrust investigations across the world into Google’s dominance in mobile software and other areas threaten to limit the company’s ability to gain steam in new ventures.
Alphabet shares fell 0.7% on Wednesday.
The reveal of the new glasses reflects the company’s growing caution amid greater scrutiny on Big Tech. When Google Glass was demonstrated at I/O in 2012, skydivers used it to live stream a jump onto a San Francisco building, with the company getting special air clearance for the stunt.
This time around, Google showed only a video of its prototype, which displayed translations for conversations involving English, Mandarin, Spanish, and American Sign Language.
It did not specify a release date or immediately confirm that the device lacked a camera.
Separate to the gadget, Google earlier demonstrated a feature that eventually would let users take a video of store shelves with wine bottles and ask the search app to perform functions like automatically identifying options from Black-owned wineries.
Similarly, users later this year will be able to snap a photo of a product and locate nearby stores where it is available.
Also later this year, Maps will launch an immersive view for some big cities that fuses Street View and aerial images “to create a rich, digital model of the world,” Google said.
The tablet reverses Google’s decision three years ago to abandon making its own after poor sales. It shipped just 500,000 of those units, according to IDC.
The new tablet follows increased user interest and was announced early to inform buyers considering alternatives, Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president for devices and services, told reporters.
He added that the Pixel Watch, which will not be compatible with Apple’s iPhones, will attract different users than devices from Google’s Fitbit, which is associated with health and fitness and was acquired last year for $2.1 billion.
Among other announcements, a relaunched Google Wallet app will virtually store driver’s licenses in some areas of the United States later this year, mirroring a feature Apple debuted for Arizona on its iPhones in March.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif. and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru. Editing by Paul Simao, Matthew Lewis, Nick Zieminski and Bernard Orr)