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Google Glass Isn't Dead -- But It's All About the Enterprise for Now

A new version of the device for enterprise clients is in the works.

Asa Mathat

A new Google Glass is coming, possibly by the end of this year — but it will look pretty familiar.

Re/code has learned that a version of the second edition of Google’s wearable, which was erroneously assumed dead when the search giant obfuscated about its future earlier this year, has already been distributed to the company’s Glass at Work enterprise partners.

The new model, as reported by 9to5Google, can fold up like a traditional pair of glasses and is more rugged for outdoor use. However, unlike most other smart glasses, it still sports a small screen to the upper right of the user’s vision, rather than displaying an image in the center of one’s view like the ODG R7 or Microsoft HoloLens.

Glass at Work partners are talking regularly with the team under Tony Fadell, the Nest Labs honcho who took over the Glass project earlier this year, about possible improvements to both hardware and software. The team hasn’t yet communicated specific details about pricing or timing for the next update of the hardware, several sources said, but one source expected it to come in well below the original Glass’ $1,500 price tag, to stay competitive with other smart glasses in the enterprise.

Another source said that Google has pushed to keep the Glass team in place, implementing a freeze on transferring out of the division in April, after several Googlers tried to exit following the shuttering of the Explorer program.

Google declined to comment, beyond its usual statement that the Glass team is “heads down.” A rep for Fadell declined to comment as well.

Google’s enterprise partnerships are not exclusive, meaning most or all of the Glass at Work companies are also using competitive devices from companies such as ODG, Epson and Vuzix.

“Glass at Work was around before Tony was there,” one source said. “But now it’s really ramped up.”

The focus for now is all about enterprise-specific augmented-reality applications, because those markets are ready and willing to buy and try smart glasses, rather than the consumer use cases that originally surrounded Glass’ launch:

Google still has a partnership with glass manufacturing giant Luxottica. And sources close to Google said a consumer version that may deviate even further from Glass 1.0 is still in the works. Fadell previously told the BBC that he sees wearable computing as a place for Google to make continued long-term investments, and that “it’s going to take time to get it right.”

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