The death of Google's Iris AR glasses may have been exaggerated

The new Google smart glasses teased at Google I/O 2022
(Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • A Google app beta update shows code referencing "Iris," the mixed-reality glasses project previously thought to be canceled.
  • The code shows an option to "touch & hold the right temple to talk to your Assistant," aka Google Assistant.
  • Google allegedly has several AR or XR glasses projects in the works, codenamed Betty, Barry, and Moohan, in addition to (or in place of) Iris.

A few months back, we heard reports that Google had canceled Project Iris, mixed-reality smart glasses with the ability to translate in real-time or augment your view with Google Maps directions. Now, it appears that Iris — or a resurrected version of the project — still exists and is being incorporated into Google's apps.

9to5Google reported finding the following code string in the Google beta app (emphasis ours): "<string name=”assistant_bisto_oobe_iris_finish_setup_description_no_hotword”>Just touch & hold the right temple to talk to your Assistant.</string>."

Just as Meta's new smart glasses have a Meta AI assistant and a button on the temple for shortcuts like taking photos, it appears Google's smart glasses prototype will let you call Google Assistant with a button press. 

The discovered code doesn't yet say what you can do with Assistant, but you can expect similar functionality to what you can ask with a Wear OS watch.

Google is currently developing an XR operating system to sell to smart glasses manufacturers while simultaneously designing its own AR glasses. Google aims to finish these projects in the next couple of years, so it makes sense that smart glasses code would begin to appear in its apps. We just never expected the "Iris" name to stick around.

Google's new smart glasses on stage at Google I/O 2022

Google's cancelled smart glasses prototype on stage at Google I/O 2022 (Image credit: Google)

An August Business Insider report with several internal sources revealed that Google has several XR or AR projects in development. They include "Betty" and "Barry," two projects supposedly spun off of Project Iris with the same "Micro XR" technology; Betty is said to have a monocular design like Google Glass, while Barry augments both lenses. 

Reportedly, Google wants to try and pitch these Iris spin-offs to manufacturers like Samsung to form a smart glasses partnership starting in 2025. It's an odd situation because Google simultaneously has a contract with Samsung to make the Android XR OS software for Samsung's hardware.

Nicknamed Project Moohan, this Google software division allegedly isn't allowed to talk with its AR hardware divisions because Samsung fears Google will steal ideas for its own glasses. Samsung itself delayed its XR headset after seeing the Apple Vision Pro, and Google engineers are "skeptical" that Samsung can redesign its headset quickly enough to hit its 2024 target.

This messy situation should make it clear that "Project Iris" could take one of many forms. It's very possible that we'd see the above code string used to call Bixby on a Samsung headset, as well as Assistant on Google's glasses. 

Plus, if Google does develop its own smart glasses, they probably won't be called Iris; Pixel Glass or another on-brand name seems more likely.

In the end, we're glad to see that Google is hard at work developing AR or XR software, whether it's designed for Project Iris or not. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.