Google on Wednesday said it’s working on high-tech smartglasses that translate languages in real time and display the text on their lenses.
Unveiled at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, the glasses take advantage of the company's translation and transcription technologies, allowing the device to scroll text like subtitles. The glasses, which are black and thick-rimmed, are still in the prototype phase, and Google gave no release date or technical specifications, and made no indication that it would release it as an actual product.
It was at Google I/O a decade ago that cofounder Sergey Brin debuted another piece of eyewear: Google Glass, its futuristic but ultimately ill-fated smartglasses. At that event, the company hired stunt people to skydive over a San Francisco conference center and rappel down a building to demo the device’s capabilities. But Glass famously sparked controversy almost immediately, testing the public’s relationship with technology because of privacy concerns over the device’s onboard camera.
Google’s announcement for its live-translation glasses was more subdued, showing a mother and daughter chatting and looking at pictures, and a conversation between a deaf person and a non-deaf person.
Over the last few years, Google has experimented with other translation and transcription products, including earbuds that do real-time translations and a smartphone recording app that does live transcriptions.
Google I/O is the tech giant’s biggest event of the year. In the past, Google has used the conference to unveil its most high-profile projects, including its Google Home smart speakers, and more out-there efforts like its eerily human-sounding artificial intelligence software Duplex. The company streamed the event at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, a short walk away from its global headquarters.
Google’s event comes as the company faces controversy beyond its product lineup. The tech giant is under antitrust scrutiny in the US and Europe, and faces turmoil as its employees and contractors organize and protest the company.
The tech giant also made a slew of other announcements at the conference, including several updates to its Pixel product line like a long-awaited smartwatch, a new midrange smartphone, wireless earbuds, and a tablet. New software features included automated summaries for Google Docs and 3D models in Google Maps.
The debut of the Pixel Watch has been long anticipated, as Android users waited for a Google product that would compete with the Apple Watch, which launched seven years ago. Wearable tech has become an important category for Google and other tech firms, as people spend more time with their devices and companies look to collect biometric and other types of data.