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Why Google Abandoned Project Iris: An Analysis of the Causes

Project Iris was a big promise from Google - an augmented reality (AR) glasses set, designed to compete with upcoming products from Meta and Apple. Google's goal was to deliver users innovative AR glasses with translation and navigation features. Unfortunately, as reported by Insider, these plans have now been scrapped.

So why did Google decide to take such a drastic step? It seems the reasons are manifold.

Firstly, Google is currently focusing on software, not hardware. It's preparing a "micro XR" platform that it could license to other headset manufacturers, much like Google provides Android to a broad ecosystem of phones. This would not be the first project in which Samsung and Google collaborated to create a cutting-edge device that Google wasn't ready to build on its own. For example, Google modified Android to support the Galaxy Fold line of folding phones, long before it launched its own Pixel Fold.

It thus appears that Google sees its future as a software provider, not hardware. This might be a result of lessons learned from the company's previous experiences in the hardware market, which is often difficult and costly to maintain.

Secondly, Insider reports that Project Iris experienced numerous layoffs and strategy shifts during development. Google lost a key figure in the form of VR/AR department head - Clay Bavor, who left the company four months ago. Kurt Akeley, a renowned engineer who was involved with the project, is now listed as "retired" on his LinkedIn page.

Staff turnover and strategy changes may have impacted team morale, as well as caused delays and development issues. These factors may have contributed to Google's decision to discontinue Project Iris.

Finally, it's worth noting that Google acquired the AR glasses company, North, in 2020. Many North employees, including co-founders Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant, still work for Google. It's possible that the experience and expertise of these employees will be utilized in other Google AR projects, which might have also influenced the decision to terminate Project Iris.

In conclusion, it appears that the reasons for Google's abandonment of Project Iris are complex and include the company's strategic shift towards software, personnel and strategic issues within the project, and the potential to utilize the North team's expertise in other AR projects. While this decision may seem unexpected, it seems that Google remains committed to further developing and investing in AR technology, albeit perhaps in a different way.

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