After the epidemic, online presentations have become the norm. Before the release of new products, major technology companies will always form several teams to help film the products, and then high-level executives will come on stage to introduce the highlights. The process is orderly, but it feels the same when watching more.
Go back in time 10 years, and publishing will be much more exciting then than it is now. At the 2012 Google I/O conference, Google Glass, a product that was considered to define the direction of technology within ten years at the time, was unveiled in the same way as itself, which is unforgettable. Towards the end, Google co-founder Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin popped onto the stage to say he had “something cool” to introduce to the audience, with a pair of weirdly asymmetrical glasses on his face, apparently It’s what he said, “the cool thing Google has been working on,” but before introducing it, he has to video call his friends.
The screen on the big screen changed, and several skydivers wearing single-temple glasses like Brin appeared, preparing to fall from the sky. Another skydiver was in charge of filming, and the equipment was the single-temple glasses on his face. The skydivers jumped out of the cabin one by one and landed on the ground. The scenery was broadcasted to the venue by the glasses in real time, which was tense and exciting. Soon the parachutist landed on the roof of a certain house, quickly removed the parachute and rode a mountain bike to the wall, quickly descended to the house with a rope, and then rode a bicycle to the venue.
The whole process was broadcast simultaneously, and finally the parachutist opened a door and entered the venue full of audiences——Google Glass descended from the sky to the conference site, and the atmosphere exploded. At this time, there is no need for Brin to explain, the whole world understands Google What the hell is Glass.
Google Glass is the most technologically advanced product in the past 10 years, depicting a future where everyone has a screen on their face. At that time, the concept of wearable devices had just sprouted, and the Apple Watch had not yet been released. AR glasses were people’s best imagination of a second screen other than a mobile phone, but this idea lasted 10 years. And 10 years later, the mobile phone has not only not been killed, but has become more powerful, and AR glasses are still in the imagination.
Why haven’t AR glasses become mainstream until now?
A failure in gorgeous packaging
Google Glass was a landmark feature-driven product and its most famous failure; it was the future of computing terminals and a weird voyeuristic tool. You can define Google Glass any way you want. It is a dream of the technology circle, both a dream and a nightmare. From the perspective of product development, Google Glass, which was discontinued in 2015, was a failure. It took less than 3 years from shocking the world to being abandoned.
But back to the birth of Google Glass, maybe it didn’t intend to embrace the public at the beginning. According to foreign media reports, Brin, the Google X team, and the marketing team knew that Google Glass was only a semi-finished product before the conference. There were many loopholes and problems to be solved, and it was not suitable for exposure. And launched a public beta version of Google Glass called Explorer Edition.
Want to participate in the Google Glass beta not only need money, but also a lot of luck. Google only releases 8,000 places, and only those who are selected can buy a semi-finished Google Glass at a sky-high price of $1,500. The small amount and super high price add a lot of mystery to Google Glass. The whole world is curious about the function of this small piece of glass. News related to Google Glass and AR glasses can set off a huge wave of traffic.
From a marketing point of view, the launch of Google Glass was undoubtedly a success, but due to hunger marketing, people expected too much from Google Glass. When the audience calmed down, they quickly discovered the shortcomings of Google Glass: less functions, weak performance, exaggerated shape, and low battery life. Google Glass can display weather, news, phone calls and other information, take pictures, record videos, navigate or wake up Google Assistant to search. It sounds rich, but it has all the functions, and entry-level smartphones are better than it.
In terms of battery life, Google Glass claims to have a standard battery life of 6 hours, but less than half of the users can get this data. If you take frequent photos, the battery may run out within 2 hours. This is just the focus of Google’s publicity. The exaggerated design and conspicuous lens have also caused a lot of privacy controversy. People are afraid of being photographed secretly. Therefore, Google Glass is rejected or restricted in many public places. If you must wear it to go out, you must be prepared to be treated as a freak.
The most important and crucial reason to stop the popularity of Google Glass is the high price. For consumers, spending $1,200 on glasses that can only display simple information is not as cost-effective as buying a dishwasher, which can actually change lifestyle. At that time, people believed that after the technology matured, the price of AR glasses would drop to a level acceptable to consumers. At that time, AR glasses would usher in the first year of explosion. Unfortunately, until now, Google Glass has not been able to cross the pit, and other AR glasses have not been able to catch up. .
AR + glasses =?
Every cutting-edge technological product that astounds the world can be decomposed into a combination of many ordinary technologies, such as electric vehicle + camera = self-driving car; touch screen + communication module = smart phone. The reason why these products survive is because of the integration of different technologies to achieve revolutionary human-computer interaction. What will AR + glasses get? A second screen that displays information next to your body? More approachable-looking smartwatches have proven more suitable for this role; voice assistants? True wireless headsets have similar functions; a camera that shoots all the time? Handheld action cameras such as a Go Pro work even better.
Google Glass looks like a powerful product with better products. It is difficult to find a reason to use AR glasses. It sounds a bit ironic, because AR glasses nourish the concept of wearable smart products, but they cannot support themselves. The core reason is that AR glasses cannot perfectly express the concept of AR (Augmented Reality).
Go to online shopping sites to search for AR glasses, and you will find many consumer-grade AR glasses, but unlike the familiar Google Glass, most consumer-grade AR products just put a laser projection screen in front of the glasses, and the main selling point It’s watching movies, and everything in the real world has nothing to do with the content, weakening the concept of AR and becoming narrower.
In addition to consumer-grade products, Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi and OPPO have also released AR glasses concept products this year. The shape is closer to people’s imagination of AR glasses, but the functions have not escaped the shadow of Google Glass, and they are only derivative peripheral products of smartphones. Ten years later, we are still spinning in the circle drawn by Google. It is difficult for AR glasses to become popular without breaking the cycle of high cost but insufficient performance.
This is why Google and Microsoft have shifted the focus of AR products to the industrial end, using Google Glass and Hololens to provide solutions such as remote collaboration and remote guidance. Compared with the consumer side, industrial-grade products are more inclusive of cost and user experience, and AR is more useful for industrial production implementation and has better benefits.
The logic of designing AR glasses is actually similar to smart devices such as mobile phones. Simply put, it is to increase computing power, enrich functions and control power consumption at the same time. However, eyewear products should pay more attention to product size and wearing comfort. There is very little space left for components such as processors, lenses, batteries, etc., just like doing cardiovascular bypass surgery for ants. AR glasses do not require low core computing power. In order to perfectly integrate digital display content with reality, the glasses need to “understand” the real objects that users see. This has extremely high requirements for the AI recognition ability of the glasses.
Ordinary people imagine that AR should bring people closer to the digital world. If you want to take a bus, a prompt window will appear on the stop sign to tell you how long the bus will arrive after get off work; when you are looking for a restaurant to check the menu outside the store, a small window will display Ratings and signature dishes. To have these functions, a powerful engine needs to be stuffed into the “ant’s body”. This is also the direction of AR glasses developers and processor manufacturers.
Recently, Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon GO”, released the AR glasses concept machine based on Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon AR2 platform. From the concept film, AR games and AR real-world interaction are the key points. As the most successful AR game developer, Niantic has rich accumulation and understanding in the field of AR. Based on the feedback from users, it summarizes the five major requirements for AR glasses design: comfort, wireless, portability, compactness and powerful functions. In order to ensure comfort, Niantic tries to keep the weight below 250 grams, so that users will not feel tired after playing for an hour or two. Compared with Google Glass, Niantic’s design is bigger and heavier, but compared with other VR devices, Niantic’s AR glasses are still much lighter and more suitable for going out.
Niantic AR glasses are composed of a lens screen and a similar fabric headband. The processing core Snapdragon AR2 is hidden in the headband. It is three 4-nanometer chips, which are 2.5 times higher than Qualcomm’s previous generation XR processor AI performance and 50% lower power consumption. , playing AR games with glasses, real-time AR navigation and other AR experiences are all possible. In terms of display effects, Niantic’s AR glasses are obviously not as cool as the Google Glass that airborne in San Francisco, but from the perspective of AR technology development, Niantic’s concept is obviously closer to the AR world imagined by the public.
The Snapdragon AR2 platform at the core of Niantic’s concept phone represents more possibilities for high-performance computing in future AR glasses devices, and a better balance between size and power consumption. If AR glasses can develop at the same level as the “involution” of smartphones, the future world of science fiction works may come earlier.
Niantic CEO John Hanke was asked about the relationship between AR devices and people. He believes that although AR glasses are still a niche product, they will soon become a necessity for some people like smart watches. More time technology improvements and program development. Regarding the time point of “National AR”, he believes that it will take 3 to 5 years. By then, are you willing to try again the “cool stuff” that Brin took out more than ten years ago?
(This article is reproduced with the authorization of Ai Faner; source of the first picture: shutterstock)