Jio’s Reliance Industries announced new augmented reality glasses at their annual meeting. The glasses promise “holographic content” including the ability to make holographic video calls, and support for dozens of apps.
“Jio Glass is making teachers and students come together in 3D virtual rooms and conduct holographic classes through our Jio Mixed Reality cloud in real-time. With Jio Glass, the traditional way of learning geography will now be history,” said Kiran Thomas during the presentation, giving one example of a use case for the devices.
Through Tesseract, developers can also express an interest in developing for the glasses. Tesseract is a public subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited and an MIT Media Lab spin-off operating out of India creating products in the mixed reality (AR/VR) space.
No price or timing was given for when the glasses will be available. It’s not a company I closely follow, but by some accounts they have made hardware announcements previously and then quietly shelved their plans.
Google Takes A Stake
Coinciding with the announcement, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai made a cameo appearance. Google announced a $4.5 billion dollar investment in the company (making it one of the few to have both Google and Facebook as investors).
The purpose of the investment is to build out the capacity to deliver cell phones and networks to India’s massive market:
“As part of Wednesday’s strategic announcement, Google and Reliance Jio Platforms will work on a customized-version of Android operating system to develop low-cost, entry-level smartphones to serve the next hundreds of millions of users, said Ambani. These phones will support Google Play and future wireless standard 5G, he said.”
Jio will reportedly collaborate with Google on Jio Glass. This is part of the much larger partnership to bring more of India online.
An Android Strategy for Augmented Reality
Jio Glass isn’t the cornerstone of the agreement between Google and Reliance. And yet it might point to a broader strategy by Google: to tackle augmented reality much like it tackled smart phones.
It puts its recent purchase of North into, well, focus. You can imagine that the patent portfolio (which was perhaps the core piece of the acquisition, considering that they don’t intend to launch Focals 2) might come in handy in the partnership with Jio.
Similarly, Google invested heavily in Magic Leap. Their AR frameworks are ‘device agnostic’. And their code powers other wearable devices.
Google cares about the data layer. If their maps, patents, platforms, SDKs and investments can help power a new generation of optical wearables, their own efforts to launch glasses could eventually seem more like a Pixel than a stand-alone entry into what will be a highly competitive market.
Whether Jio Glass launch, how much they’ll cost and whether they’ll work as advertised remains to be seen.
But if nothing else the global battle for augmented reality is now clear.