Google's AR headset plans just leaked: Meta, meet Project Iris

The last few years have been a blur of rumors, leaks, and announcements about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets. For the most part, Google has remained pretty quiet. A bit of news has broken this week, making it appear that Google plans to join the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and other tech giants in the AR hardware game.

The Verge reported today that two sources familiar with the headset's development say that Google hopes to ship a new Google-branded, Google-made augmented reality headset in the year 2024. The sources also say that the device will utilize outward-facing cameras, similar to AR headsets that Apple and Meta (previously Facebook) are rumored to be working on. These cameras will work to blend the real-world video feed with computer graphics, combining the real and virtual worlds into one. It isn't super surprising to see Google potentially making industrial design choices similar to those of rumored or confirmed projects Apple and Microsoft are leaning towards, either, but it will be interesting to see which company delivers a better camera setup.

It is also interesting to hear that Google wants to launch the headset so soon, especially when the company hasn't really talked at length (in public, anyway) about the potential for creating a headset as such. Apple has remained relatively quiet on the official comment front about their research and development of any sort of headset, while Microsoft has talked quite a bit about its plans for augmented reality. 

Google's troubled history with augmented reality

Chris Davies/SlashGear

While the news that Google is working on a new AR headset is intriguing, it isn't the company's first foray into the industry. Back in 2012, it tried to push a device called Google Glass. The glasses-based headset didn't take off, though, and it mostly fell away from the public eye. Google tried to bring it back in an enterprise capacity with The Glass Enterprise Edition 2 in 2019, but it didn't see much fanfare then, either. Above you'll see a pair of North Focals from the company that was acquired by Google back in the year 2020.

Despite not really releasing a whole lot of hardware made specifically for augmented reality over the past few years, Google hasn't let the future metaverse fall far from its sight. Google's kept up work on major label products like augmented reality-assisted directions in Google Maps, Google Lens with image-based recognition for Google Search, and continued efforts in AR Core for all manner of augmented reality experienced developed by 3rd party developers.

With this new mystery hardware project, Google is keeping its cards close to its chest. The Verge reported that Project Iris is stored in a building that requires a keyboard and signing of non-disclosure agreements. The original report suggests that the team working on the new project is only 300 people large, but that Google plans to hire more. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has told investors that the company is looking into AR (via 9to5Google), but the company hasn't yet shared any solidified plans of how much it plans to invest in the technology (as far as hardware goes, specifically).

For now, all we can do is wait for more information about Project Iris to come out, or drop back into the archives to see what Google headset oddities leaked before.