HoloLens Principal Optical Architect Joins Google Labs
If not for yesterday’s report that Google is actually building an AR headset behind the scenes, this news might as well slipped under the radar.
The principal architect at Microsoft’s HoloLens, Bernard Kress has quit the company and joined the recently formed Google Labs as the Director of XR Engineering. Yesterday, The Verge reported that Google is building an AR headset that it expects to ship in 2024 and which is likely to compete with similar products from Meta and Apple.
Kress has previously worked at Google where he was the principal optical architect in charge of Google Glass before he joined Microsoft in 2015. Although Google Glass had some success in the enterprise market, it saw a rocky ride in the consumer market.
Kress worked along the same lines at Microsoft where the focus of his work was on micro-optics, holography, wafer-scale optics, and nanophotonics. At the HoloLens team, he was the partner optical architect in which he oversaw HoloLens and HoloLens 2.
He is now back to the familiar Mountain View where he will work on Google’s next Augmented Reality headset. His LinkedIn profile states that he has been steering the Optical Engineering department at Google Labs from November last year. This was just about the time when Google was shaking things up and creating the AR/VR division.
The Verge report states that Google’s AR headset project is codenamed, Project Iris. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report says Project Iris will be shipping in 2024 but the date is most likely only aspirational as the device is still in early-stage development.
The prototype of the headset is said to look like ski goggles and will give users a standalone user experience including computing, onboard power, and outward-facing cameras which have world-sensing capabilities. The description sounds similar to that of Magic Leap or HoloLens.
The standalone Google AR headset reportedly uses a custom Google processor and runs either an Android version or Google’s own AR OS. According to a job listing, such an operating system is currently under development.
The report stated that the project is being worked on by 300 people with plans to hire hundreds more. The project is being headed by veteran Google AR/VR executive Clay Bavor who reports directly to CEO Sundar Pichai.
Bavor has worked on Project Starline, Google’s experimental light field display system that has been built to be a more natural way of chatting with someone remotely, a vast improvement over the conventional video conferencing apps. He has also been instrumental in the launch of Google’s Daydream VR platform as well as the development of Google’s software development kit for smartphone-based AR, ARCore.