Google Glass and Magic Leap were both among the biggest technology flops of the past decade — but could their underlying ideas power something worthy and new? We may find out because Google and Magic Leap now have a “multi-faceted strategic technology partnership” designed to “foster the future of the XR ecosystem with unique and innovative product offerings.”

It is not at all clear what the deal involves, but the press release does repeatedly boast about Magic Leap’s optics and manufacturing expertise — expertise that, it claims, produces “highly-precise eyepieces with incredibly high yield rates and quality at scale.” (IIRC, the company itself has never shipped a headset with an MSRP below $2,000 and never shared sales numbers, so “scale” may be relative.)

It is true that Magic Leap has spent considerable effort researching and patenting intriguing optical techniques, though, as I wrote about in 2015 for Gizmodo. And though Google reportedly downsized its own AR / VR division and lost many of its leaders, the company is clearly still interested in augmented reality glasses — it showed off a blink-and-you-missed-it prototype pair at Google I/O earlier this month.

The mystery glasses prototype Google briefly teased at I/O.

The mystery glasses prototype Google briefly teased at I/O.

Image: Google

Many leading tech companies chasing lightweight glasses are reportedly finding their optical components are difficult to develop and expensive to produce and are merely dipping toes in the water while they figure it out — like Apple with its heavy and pricey $3,500 Vision Pro, or Meta with its Quest 3’s passthrough mode or the lightweight Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses that don’t have a display at all but do have a generative AI voice assistant. (Speaking of generative AI, it’s also sucked a lot of air out of the VR / AR / XR room.)

But perhaps Magic Leap has a technology or a patent that Google thinks will help it win the race to truly smart glasses?

If so, I wouldn’t expect to find out anytime soon. Google also inked a mystery deal with Samsung and Qualcomm to produce a headset back in February 2023, and we’ve heard basically nothing about it from those companies since then — though the rumor mill suggests it might arrive by the end of 2024 and could be revealed alongside the next Galaxy Z Flip and Fold handsets.

[ For more curated Samsung news, check out the main news page here]

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