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Google Glass, v. 2.0: The Workingman’s Glass

Google Glass, the heads-up display apparatus resembling a pair of glasses, is making a comeback on the floors of factories around the country, Viad Savov of reports . The second generation of the product, called Google Glass Enterprise Edition (or Google Glass EE) , has been purchased and is being used by companies like Boeing, GE, and DHL. Today marks the end of a nondisclosure period imposed upon companies using Glass, and the beginning of Google’s parent company Alphabet’s effort to introduce Glass to a larger pool of businesses.

So far, companies are pleased with the product. According to a statement by Project Lead Jay Kothari, GE says Glass has cut down on human error at crucial junctures of assembly and overhaul processes, and increased efficiency by 8-12%.  Company officials at AGCO, which manufactures agricultural machinery, say Glass has allowed workers to produce products 25% faster, and has slashed inspection times by 30%. DHL estimates its supply chain efficiency has improved by 15% since it began using Glass. The Glass HUD gives workers instructions and shows them videos, so that they don’t have to stop working to consult manuals.

“Employees are now working smarter, faster and safer because they have the information they need right in their line of sight,” Peggy Gulick, AGCO’s Director of Business Process Improvement, told Kothari.

Healthcare professionals at Dignity Health have been using a note-taking software developed for Glass that records information provided by customers in conversations with doctors. With Glass taking notes for them, doctors can fully engage with patients. Dignity’s Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Davin Lunquist, told Kothari the breakthrough technology has reduced administrative work by more than 23% and given doctors twice as much time to interact with patients.

Alphabet’s vast network of partners has developed a diverse collection of software for Glass. Each piece of software is tailored to a specific type of task. For its supply chain operation, DHL runs Ubimax for Glass. GE uses a program created for Glass by Upskill. Dignity Health employs software developed by Augmedix to turn Glass into a sort of dictation device.

As more and more software is developed for Glass, Alphabet expects the product to expand into an increasing array of business sectors.

“…we’re looking forward to seeing more businesses give their workers a way to work faster and in a more focused way, hands-free,” Kothari says.

In its first generation, Glass was envisioned as a consumer product. In March 2013, Alphabet issued a beta version of Glass to 8,000 “Glass Explorers” who had applied via Twitter. In January 2015, the company announced the end of the “exploration period,” but promised to “continue to build for the future” and told Glass enthusiasts to “hang tight” for an “exciting ride.”

That future may be here now, even if it’s not quite what fervid tech-heads expected. The new, business version of Glass features a better camera than its predecessor (8 megapixels as opposed to 5); longer battery life; faster WiFi; and an enhanced processor, according to Savov. Moreover, Glass Pod, the module that powers Glass, can be attached to a range of compatible frames, including certain varieties of safety goggles and some prescription glasses.

Alphabet is confident about the future of Glass, but reticent to define exactly what that future will hold.

“We’re not going to prejudge exactly what that path is,” Astro Teller, the chief of Alphabet’s experimental X division, told Savov. “We’ll focus on the places that are actually getting value out of [Glass] and go through the journey with them, being open-minded about where it’s going to go.”

But Kothari assures the world that Glass is moving full-steam ahead, and quickly, even if the precise direction is unclear.

“This isn’t an experiment. It was an experiment three years ago. Now we are in full-on production with our customers and with our partners,” he said.

Featured image via Flickr/Ted Eytan

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