Mobile Digest: Alphabet targets enterprise with return of Google Glass

Ready for Glassholes in the workplace? Google Glass is making a comeback. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

 

Alphabet announced that its biggest flameout of all time, Google Glass, is back — this time with a solo focus on the enterprise. The Glass Enterprise Edition aims to make factory workers smarter, safer and more connected on the job and comes in a completely modular design that can attach to any existing piece of eyewear, like industrial safety glasses. The new Glass also comes with a higher resolution camera, a longer battery life and faster WiFi so that workers can easily watch videos, animations and instruction manuals while keeping their eyes trained on the task at hand. It turns out that Alphabet has been working on these improvements to Glass in its experimental "X division" ever since the first generation fizzled out with consumers back in 2015. Alphabet has enlisted the help of a number of Glass Partners to create custom frames and software solutions for interested enterprises. 

 

In the money

 

Japanese telecom SoftBank and Chinese ridehailing firm Didi Chuxing invested $2 billion in Grab, Southeast Asia's most popular ridehailing app. SoftBank then turned around and made a multi-billion-dollar bid for a large share of Uber. SoftBank already owns the majority share of Uber rival Ola in India, and Uber owns a 20% share of Didi Chuxing in China. Point being that mergers and consolidation are on the near horizon for the ridehailing industry.   

 

In other news

 

Facebook wants in on the smart speaker bonanza. Amazon is killing it with the Echo, Google has Home and Apple has the HomePod, so naturally Zuckerberg is interested, especially since the console would give Facebook a physical home outside of smartphones and desktops. Facebook will reportedly seek to differentiate its smart speaker with a 15-inch iPad-esque touchscreen. The device will also have a speaker for playing music and updates from friends. 

 

In a major concession to the Chinese government, Apple signaled that it is removing all VPN apps from its App Store in China. VPN apps allow users to circumvent China's stringent internet censorship laws and have served as an important tool for the free dissemination of information behind China's Great Firewall. Apple is capitulating to pressure from the Chinese government because its marketshare dropped four percentage points to 9.6% last year, and the company is scared to find itself on the outside looking in at the hottest smartphone market on the planet. 

 

Lenovo laid out its vision for how it plans to embrace artificial intelligence in the coming years at its annual Tech World show in Shanghai. The company is working on a virtual assistant named CAVA that uses deep learning-based face recognition systems and natural language understanding technologies to help people manage their lives. The company demoed a smart speaker dubbed the SmartCast+ that can talk, listen, learn and project augmented reality images on walls. It also showed off a standalone augmented reality headset called daystAR. 

 

Your next iPhone may be built in America. Apple supplier Foxconn announced that it will build a $10-billion factory in the state of Wisconsin. It's a "big big" win for President Donald Trump who hasn't had much to boast about of late and thus invited Foxconn to make the announcement from the East Room of the White House. The company says the factory will create 5000 American jobs. The company promised a similar factory in Pennsylvania back in 2013 and then never followed through on it, so we'll see how this all shakes out. 

 

Lyft is pursuing its own robot car technology to better compete with Uber. The company created a new division called Level 5 that will focus on building hardware and software for self driving cars. The division will be based out of a 50,000 square foot facility in Palo Alto, California, where it will operate labs and testing tracks. Lyft plans to disribute its self-driving tech to automotive partners that will use it to build autonomous vehicles that operate on the Lyft ridehailing network. 

 

Microsoft announced a new artificial intelligence chip for its augmented reality headset, HoloLens. The chip will help HoloLens process imagery and text in the real world and enable it to understand complex speech and hand gestures from the person behind the lens. More than beefing up its AR offering, Microsoft is keen to keep pace on the AI front with Google, which already has its second generation AI chips in the hands of developers around the world.

 

A microchip company out of Wisconsin called Three Square Market (32M) is offering to implant its workers with a tiny microchip between forefinger and thumb. At least 50 employees have taken them up on the offer, which goes live August 1. In addition to streamlining food purchases, the microchip will use near-field communication to enable employees to open doors and log in to computers with a wave of their fingers.  

 

Finally, if you live in Honolulu and like to use your smartphone while walking down the street, beware! Honolulu just passed a new law that makes it illegal to check your phone or text while crossing the street. The more times you sneak a peek in a cross walk, the higher the fine will be, with tickets ranging from $15 to $99. The goal of the law is to curb distracted walking, which has led Honolulu to one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the country. 

 

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

 

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.