Main image of article Google Reportedly Dumps Augmented Reality Eyewear

Google has reportedly sidelined its augmented reality (AR) hardware project.

Since last year, rumors abounded that the search-engine giant was hard at work on a pair of AR eyeglasses (codenamed “Project Iris”) that would overlay digital imagery on the wearer’s real-world environment. However, a new report in Business Insider suggests that the project is dead, thanks in large part to Google’s recent waves of layoffs and reorganizations.

The Business Insider report emphasizes that Google hasn’t entirely abandoned its AR ambitions; instead, the company has shifted its focus to developing AR software that other companies will presumably run on their own hardware platforms—an echo of Google’s original Android strategy, in which it licensed the Android operating system to mobile-device manufacturers.

Meta and Apple are also reportedly hard at work on augmented-reality technology, despite what some sources have described as significant technical hurdles. Crafting a lightweight AR device with excellent battery life will require perfecting some cutting-edge technologies; Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggested in a recent article that Apple’s version of AR eyeglasses are at least four years away from release.

What does this mean for software developers, engineers, and other tech professionals interested in playing in the AR sandbox? First, the AR market remains nascent, at least when it comes to apps and services; you have plenty of time to learn how the technology works and ideate some cool uses for it. If you gravitate toward the Apple ecosystem, familiarize yourself with tools like RealityKit and ARKit; if you’re partial to Meta, you can check out their AR toolkit; and even though Google may eventually come out with something entirely different, you can build AR experiences for iOS and Android via its ARCore kit.  

Second, even if AR holds no interest for you, you shouldn’t entirely ignore the technology. Meta, Apple, and Google are all willing to devote enormous resources to their respective AR platforms, and whether a mature AR eventually replaces smartphones is a good question. Keep an eye on it for the time being.