Google has updated its Google Glass FCC filing with new images and descriptions of a second edition device expected to be released in 2016. The new device represents a strategic shift of Google’s original vision for Glass. While Glass was originally designed as a consumer electronics device, it is now being designed as a workplace tool, and will be marketed under the Glass Enterprise Edition label when it is released. Rumors have swirled around the Google Glass project since Google pulled the plug on its Glass Explorer program in January 2015. At the time, it was reported that Glass would be redesigned for the workplace, and Google encouraged Enterprise developers to continue working on their apps. One industry analyst responded, “Given the uncertainty around the program and whatever changes may come in the next few months, it’s likely that many developers will put their efforts on ice until they hear more about Google’s plans for the platform.”
Those plans began to solidify over the next several months. Google confirmed that its Glass team was being moved out of the X labs and under the direction of former Nest CEO Tony Fadell, and that software updates for the devices would cease. For the next year, Google has quietly worked to improve its original design. Now, with both pictures and descriptions available on the FCC website, the public can see the changes Google has put in place. The most notable physical difference is that the new version can be folded up like a pair of traditional glasses, something that the original Google Glass could not do and one of the most requested enhancements to come from the Explorer program. Glass also got a larger display prism, an external battery pack, improved WiFi connectivity, and a new chip set that improves overall performance.
The news is good for a number of digital health startups that launched enterprise businesses that rely on Glass. For these startups, the uncertainty around the future of Glass likely limited their strategic options, though all original digital health Glass At Work partners are still in operation, and one, a startup called Augmedix, closed a $16 million Series A funding round in June amid Glass’s uncertain future. While their introductions may have been less dramatic, Glass does have notable competition in the smart glasses market, including devices from Motorola, Brother, and Epson, that enterprise startups could adopt if needed. Augmedix, which launched in 2012, is one of the only digital health startup in the Glass At Work program that has not pivoted its business model to address enterprise needs outside of healthcare. The company uses Glass to support provider documentation in real time, by allowing the provider to wear Glass during patient encounters, and having a remote scribe navigate the EHR and document the visit in real time. The company is a Rock Health graduate and has published some impressive results from early pilots of its technology.