Google is shaking things up with the reorganization of its AR/VR efforts, Project Starline, and Area 120 in-house incubator, dubbing the internal team ‘Google Labs’.

As first reported by TechCrunch, Google is shifting a few of its notable forward-looking projects into a single team and bringing them under the leadership of Google veteran Clay Bavor.

Before taking the reigns of Google Labs, Bavor led the company’s AR/VR team where he oversaw the 2016 launch of its Android-based Daydream VR platform. It was an ambitious undertaking, although it was subsequently abandoned in 2019 due to a disappointing reception to its slot-in smartphone efforts and poor market performance of its 6DOF Daydream headset, Lenovo Mirage Solo. The team also helped develop ARCore, the augmented software development kit that brought smartphone-based AR to millions of Android devices.

More recently, Bavor led Google’s Project Starline, an experimental light field display system that the company envisions as a “magic window” of sorts, allowing far-flung users to speak in a more natural way than video conferencing apps can provide—and all without the need of a headset or special glasses.

Both Project Starline and its AR/VR efforts have a shared lineage within the company, but it seems Google is adding an entrepreneurial flare to Labs with the inclusion of Area 120, the in-house tech incubator that has seen the successful launch of several startups including Threadit, Stack, Adlingo, Gamesnacks, Avera AI, and Orion WiFi.

An no, this doesn’t mean the company is reviving the 2000s-era Google Labs, which was used as a public testbed to demonstrate new projects like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Wave. An internal company memo obtained by TechCrunch states the reorganization is “focused on starting and growing new, forward-looking investment areas across the company.”

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“Central to this org is a new team called Labs, focused on extrapolating technology trends and incubating a set of high-potential, long-term projects,” the memo said.

As a result, it appears Area 120 is being elevated with its incorporation into Labs. TechCrunch notes that the incubator was “three layers deep in terms of reporting to Google CEO Sundar Pichai — even though Pichai himself had to sign off on its every exit.”

Google hasn’t officially announced Labs, however the company tacitly confirmed it by acknowledging Bavor’s new title, calling it “an expanded role” that will focus on “long-term technology projects that are in direct support of our core products and businesses.”

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Xron

    As with every Google project, we can’t have high hopes, because they tend to drop them most often from big tech companies.

  • tomchall

    great! now when they kill this division they can get rid of this all at once like they do to all their products

  • sfmike

    I don’t trust Google to do more than dabble in new tech and then let it go if it doesn’t make a billion in profit each quarter.

    • silvaring

      It’s weird that they hype things so much, only to basically abandon them, I think it’s just distraction and misinformation, but they really did have me fooled back in the days of Daydream (and more recently Stadia). I assume I wasn’t the only one considering how much press attention those things got too.

      • kontis

        It’s not weird. They hype everything assuming it will be making those billions, but if it doesn’t they cancel it.

        I mean all big corps, even those much smaller than Google, think that sub-bilion projects are a failure and waste of time, but not all of them need these numbers immediately visible in a spreadsheet. Those who have CEOs believing in the grand vision can wait a decade or even longer for big profits.

        Valve is a good example. Their ex-employee admitted they had internal saying that “hundreds of millions of dollars is zero billions of dollars”, so if an idea can’t generate billions it’s not going to be greenlit. But if GabeN believes in a vision he will wait and even reboot it.

  • Arno van Wingerde

    Lovely: I was watching this on my 34″ monitor and it looked so real and touching and all that… Now, can anybody please tell me how this is somehow different from a video conference with one other participant and good quality cameras+monitors?

    • Ming

      I’m guessing, but I think they send a live 3D scan of you, so you have 6dof. You can move your head to see the side of the person etc, so it feels like they’re really sitting in front of you.