Google (GOOG, GOOGL) took the wraps off of a new prototype pair of augmented reality glasses that can automatically translate speech for wearers that speak different languages. Unveiled during the company’s Google I/O conference, the glasses appeared to use Google’s Translate app to listen to and then project translated speech onto the lenses for users to read.
The demo was pre-recorded, brief, and short on details, but it provided an impressive look at the kinds of things that Google is working on with regards to augmented reality technologies.
The demo showed how Google’s Translate can automatically listen to speech and translate it in real-time, displaying the translated text for the wearer to see and read with ease.
Google showed how the glasses could be used to translate from Mandarin to English and vice versa, English to Spanish, and provide those who are deaf or hard of hearing with text they can read, so they can communicate in instances when they don’t have or can’t wear hearing aids.
Google is well known for showing off high-concept products at I/O that never come to market, but instead influence future devices and features that eventually land in consumers’ hands. So there’s no real idea as to whether these glasses will ever come to market.
Still, based on their design — they look like a regular pair of black glasses — Google has clearly learned its lesson from its ill-fated Google Glass headset that it debuted, and briefly sold years ago.
Silicon Valley is in a high-speed race to make the most out of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality experiences. Google’s rival in the advertising space, Meta (FB), rebranded to reflect its focus on the metaverse, and plans to release AR and VR headsets in the coming years. Microsoft (MSFT) is also working on its own metaverse products, and Apple (AAPL) is expected to launch its own mixed-reality glasses down the line.
But Google’s unnamed headset is far simpler in looks and design, not to mention capabilities, than something like a VR headset. That could make for a truly compelling product down the line, especially if Google can add more augmented reality features to it.
For now, though, the glasses are a prototype, and until we hear otherwise, it’s best to assume the company will use the device to build out future products down the line.
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