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Google’s second try at computer glasses translates conversations in real time

Google Glass translator

In Google’s second attempt at eyewear with a built-in computer, the science fiction is harder to spot.

A decade after the introduction of Google Glass, a nubby, sci-fi-looking pair of specs that filmed what wearers saw but raised privacy concerns and received poor design reviews, the Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit on Wednesday previewed a yet-unnamed pair of standard-looking glasses that display real-time translations of conversations and bear no resemblance to Google Glass.

The new augmented-reality glasses were only one of several longer-term Google I/O developer conference announcements aimed at integrating the real world with the company’s digital universe of search, Maps, and other services using artificial intelligence capabilities.

“What we’re working on is 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 additional hardware might help Google grow profits by keeping customers in its network of technologies, allowing it to avoid splitting ad sales with device makers like Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Samsung Electronics CO (005930.KS) that help distribute its services.

As part of its aim to offer a collection of devices equal to Apple, Google previewed a tablet that will be released in 2023 and a smartwatch that will be available later this year.

However, according to IDC, Google’s hardware business is still limited, with its global market share in smartphones being less than 1%. Recent search rivals, as well as ongoing antitrust probes into Google’s dominance in mobile software and other areas around the world, threaten Google’s capacity to expand into new areas.

On Wednesday, Alphabet’s stock dropped 0.7 percent.

The new spectacles reflect the company’s growing trepidation in the face of increased scrutiny of Big Tech. Skydivers utilized Google Glass to live stream a leap onto a San Francisco building when it was first exhibited at Google I/O in 2012, with the company receiving special air clearance for the stunt.

Google only released a video of its prototype this time, which featured translations for talks in English, Mandarin, Spanish, and American Sign Language.

It did not provide a release date or confirm that the device lacked a camera right away.

Separate from the device, Google previously revealed a feature that would allow users to record store shelves with wine bottles and ask the search app to execute tasks such as automatically identifying selections from Black-owned wineries.

Users will also be able to take a snapshot of a product and find local retailers that sell it later this year.

Google Maps will also introduce an immersive view for some major cities later this year, combining Street View and aerial photographs “to create a rich, digital representation of the globe,” according to Google.


The tablet reverses Google’s decision to stop building its own three years ago due to weak sales. According to IDC, just 500,000 of the units were shipped.

According to Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president for devices and services, the new tablet was revealed early to alert purchasers contemplating alternatives.

He went on to say that the Pixel Watch, which will not work with Apple’s iPhones, will appeal to a different audience than Google’s Fitbit, which is linked with health and fitness and was acquired for $2.1 billion last year.

A revamped Google Wallet program will, among other things, virtual store drivers licenses in select areas of the United States later this year, similar to a service Apple unveiled for Arizona on its iPhones in March.

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