Back in September, we spotted that Google was developing an “Augmented Reality OS” for an “innovative AR device.” A new report today reveals that Google is working on an AR headset with “Project Iris.”

Citing sources familiar with the project, The Verge says that Google is working on a headset that will augment incoming video from outward-facing cameras with various graphics. This is not the glasses form factor, and you’ll be looking at a screen with the current early prototype akin to ski goggles. That said, it already has an internal battery and does not need to be tethered for power.

It is running an unspecified “custom Google processor” that is presumably based on or similar to Tensor. This comes as hardware chief Rick Osterloh in August said that Tensor is the “perfect foundation for making big improvements in AR.” 

However, Google reportedly plans to render “some graphics” in the cloud on its data centers and “beam them into the headset” due to “power constraints.” This comes as analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this month that “Apple’s metaverse headset is about 2–3 years ahead of competitors’ products in computing power.” The company, of course, has streaming experience from Stadia.

Meanwhile, Project Iris is currently said to run Android, but that could change given the ongoing hiring for a new OS in the works.

According to The Verge, Google hopes to ship in 2024, though work only recently began to ramp up. There is no “clearly defined go-to-market strategy” and it’s unclear whether the device will be Pixel-branded, though the “Pixel team is involved in some of the hardware pieces.”

Google is being very secretive about Project Iris, with today’s report citing that work in the Bay Area happens at a separate building that “requires special keycard access and non-disclosure agreements.” There are currently 300 employees working on it, but hundreds more will be hired.

It is overseen by longtime AR/VR head Clay Bavor as part of Google Labs. Former Google Assistant engineering VP Scott Huffman is working on Project Iris, as well as the previous head of Google Lens, Lytro’s former CTO, and the engineering director in charge of ARCore. 

9to5Google’s Take

The latest rumors forecast that Apple’s upcoming AR headset could be announced this year, but not ship until 2023. Meanwhile, Meta’s Project Cambria is set to arrive in 2022. If 2024 is indeed the date for Google’s competing offering, it might be late and would be at a third-party content/app disadvantage.

Today’s report suggests that Google might have a separate project working on the smart glasses from the North acquisition. The New York Times alluded to work on that form factor late last year.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: