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Google Cuts AR Staff Just as AR Tech Looks Set to Take a Significant Leap

It was another tough day for the tech sector yesterday, with Google announcing a new round of lay-offs, and slashing hundreds of roles from several divisions.

As reported by The New York Times, the bulk of the cuts were among those working on Google Assistant, with the company now looking to re-shape the tool around AI, and scale back some elements.

But another interesting point of note was this:

Google said that most of the hardware cuts affected a team working on augmented reality, technology that combines the real world with a digital overlay.

While Apple and Meta are advancing towards making AR a bigger focus, with Apple’s first Vision Pro headsets to go on sale from February 2nd, Google’s now seemingly taking a step back.

Could that mean that Google has fallen behind in the AR race, and it’s now conceding that the other tech giants have superseded it?

Amid challenging market conditions, the big players are being forced to make some tough calls about their future bets, with Snap Inc. also reassessing their longer-term plans due to impacts in the digital ads sector.

But AR does look set to have a big moment, in the very near future, and as such, it’s interesting to see Google potentially deprioritizing it, especially considering the opportunities that it could provide for discovery products.

Indeed, over the last few years, Google has shared several glimpses of its potential value in an AR future, and how digital overlays could complement Google’s core Search products.

Google holiday updates

In 2022, Google even shared an overview of its own, in-development AR glasses, which are still seemingly in testing.

Google’s also been experimenting with various new initiatives as part of its ARCore project, including AR games.

In 2020, Google even partnered with Snapchat for an interactive take on its ‘Year in Search’ trends overview, and with all of this, it has seemed like AR will be a logical extension of Google’s various elements, and as such, would be a key focus for the company moving forward.

The latest cuts don’t necessarily mean that it won’t be, but it is interesting to consider why Google would be scaling back in this area, on the cusp of the next stage of the tech.

In addition to the pending Vision Pro launch, which will introduce more people to these immersive experiences, Meta’s also planning to begin real world testing of its AR glasses prototype this year.

With so much happening, it would seem like Google should be digging in, but it’s scaling back instead.

Which seems odd, and of course, there may be more to it that we can’t know. But it could be that Google has decided that AR simply won’t be as big a part of its future plans.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all develops, and how Google looks to integrate AR elements as they emerge. At one stage, I had speculated that Google could be a suitor for Snapchat, and could boost its AR functionality through acquisition, which could still be on the cards, though given the broader cuts, that does seem unlikely.

But it’s interesting to consider what Google’s focus will be, and how it will look to build around the next tech trends.

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