Reminder: Almost 90 per cent of the revenue of the company formerly known as Google — grandly rebranded Alphabet this fall, even if everyone, including me, is still going to call Google Google — comes from advertising.
Mountain View’s annual revenue is around $69 billion at this point. It makes almost all (89 per cent) of that money-mountain from ads. It might like you to think of it as an alphabetic spectrum of moonshot technology bets — whether that’s hacking death, accelerating life science research, building autonomous cars or making terrifying robots — but at base Google’s business is all about profiling people for ad delivery. So its business model is all about your eyeballs.
Seen from that perspective, it’s entirely unsurprisingly how multi-pronged a push Google is making to stoke the VR market right now. I’m bundling virtual reality and augmented reality together here, into one general ‘sight-disrupting’ package. Sure there are differences in immersion level between AR and VR but in general the two technologies are about injecting something digital into a user’s field of view. And Google plays in both areas, skewing more towards the AR side right now.
Firstly there’s Google’s unloved face wearable, Glass. Publicly confirmed in April 2012, and made available to developers the following year. It’s stalled as a product right now but is still apparently under development. A patent emerged recently showing a glasses-less version of Glass, still with a tiny screen positioned above the wearer’s left eye (as my TC colleague Romain Dillet pointed out, this version of Glass resembles a monocle.)