Google’s second attempt at computer glasses provides real-time translation

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 small, with a global market share of under 1% in smartphones, for example. Recent search rivals, as well as continuing antitrust probes into Google’s dominance in mobile software and other areas throughout the world, threaten to hinder the company’s capacity to expand into new areas.

On Wednesday, Alphabet stock dropped 0.7 percent.

The redesigned spectacles reflect the company’s growing caution 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 showcased at 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.

NEW HARDWARE

After dismal sales three years ago, Google decided to stop producing its own tablet. According to IDC, it only shipped 500,000 of these machines.

The new tablet was disclosed early to inform purchasers considering alternatives, according to Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president for devices and services.

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 purchased 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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