Google’s first venture into the wearable computer space never quite made the jump from expensive, niche gadget to consumer device. But early adopters of Google Glass did find some uses for the computer-on-headband that floated a display in front of your eyes in commercial, medical, and other professional contexts.
Now the team behind Google Glass is reportedly working on next-gen hardware… and some products might drop the Glass altogether. According to a report from The Information, there are three new products in development, and only one of them has a screen.
The other two are audio-only devices. You wear them like a pair of headphones and control them with voice commands. They can then respond with words (or music, or what have you).
The audio-only wearables are said to use bone conduction technology rather than traditional speakers. These versions would likely be consumer-centric devices, possibly targeted at sports users, where music playback, navigation directions, and audio feedback about your running stats could be some possible uses.
Google is said to be developing at least one new device that does have a screen, but it’s targeted at enterprise users.
The move makes sense if you consider that one of the biggest challenges faced by early version of Google Glass was the social stigma attached to wearing a device that puts a screen in front of your face and a camera next to your eyes. Some folks worried about the privacy implications of a device that would let you snap photos or take videos at any time, while others worried that a device that could constantly be distracting you and demanding you attention could have an impact on real-world social interaction.
Of course, both of those things is also true of smartphones, and Google had originally positioned Google Glass as a device that would reduce the amount of time you spent staring at a phone since it could provide quick at-a-glance notification superimposed on the real world around you. But people have remained skeptical, which may be why it’s probably still more socially acceptable to wear this type of device while working than while going out to dinner and a movie.
An audio-only version of the project, now known as Project Aura, could potentially be as unobtrusive as a pair of headphones… of course, even those have been controversial in the past. Some folks were convinced that the Sony Walkman spelled the end of the world because they allowed people to exist in their own worlds while ignoring the environment around them.