On Sunday, Microsoft released plans for its second-generation HoloLens headset, announcing that the next design of the augmented-reality glasses will incorporate a powerful AI coprocessor. That AI will allow the device to independently analyze sensory data, including what a user sees and hears, without needing to send that data off to the cloud. This will save processing time, making the device faster and more powerful while still preserving the user’s mobility. (For a deeper look at this type of device-native AI technology, read this Bloomberg piece.)
Microsoft’s news also came just a few days after Google’s announcement of a new Glass Enterprise offering. Lisa Eadicicco goes over the differences between the devices for Time:
While the basic concepts behind HoloLens and Google Glass overlap, in execution they couldn’t be less alike. Google Glass is meant to be physically insubstantial like a pair of literal glasses, only noticeable when someone needs it for a specific task. It displays a small virtual screen above the wearer’s eye, which can be glanced at without disrupting other visual tasks. The new version is even friendlier, able to clip onto existing eyeglasses and rendering the technology more accessible for those who need prescription glasses or protective eyewear in their jobs (though it must remain in wireless range of a smartphone to work properly).
HoloLens, by contrast, is much more immersive, since it can display larger graphics that fall within the wearer’s field of view. And unlike Glass, it’s also a functionally holistic device, unconstrained by reliance on smartphone or virtual-reality-style computer tethers to operate. All of HoloLens’s necessary computing components are baked into the headset.
Google Glass, originally developed from a passion project of company cofounder Sergey Brin, was supposed to unlock the next frontier in digital connectivity. While the smartphone has made technology and information omnipresent in our lives, Glass promised to remove the cumbersome barrier of a handheld device and allow for hands-free computing using voice and optical commands. Apps would seamlessly integrate with reality and life would never be the same. But that grandiose vision fell infamously short, as Glass failed to take off as a mass consumer product and the company stopped offering the product in 2015. Development went on in semi-secret, however, and the product has now found a second life as a business solution, which Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is calling Glass Enterprise Edition. In a fascinating profile of the surprisingly resurgent product, Wired‘s Steven Levy catches us up on recent events:
For about two years, Glass EE has been quietly in use in dozens of workplaces, slipping under the radar of gadget bloggers, analysts, and self-appointed futurists. Yes, the population of those using the vaunted consumer version of Glass has dwindled, tired of being driven out of lounges by cocktail-fork-wielding patrons fearing unwelcome YouTube cameos. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been selling hundreds of units of EE, an improved version of the product that originally shipped in a so-called Explorer Edition in 2013. Companies testing EE—including giants like GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen—have measured huge gains in productivity and noticeable improvements in quality. What started as pilot projects are now morphing into plans for widespread adoption in these corporations.
The new version has also undergone design advancements and now has more processing power, networking capability, and battery life, but that’s the least interesting part of the product’s evolution.