The world is still waiting to see how Google reinvents its troubled Glass wearable device.
But one of the people tasked with making it more appealing to users will no longer be part of the process.
The man responsible for user experience design at Project Aura, Google’s division dedicated to revamping Glass and building other wearable technology, has left the company after only five months.
Geoff Dowd joined Google from Adobe in November 2015 as Aura’s head of UX design but left this past March.
Although we don’t know Dowd’s reason for departure — he didn’t respond to multiple messages and Google declined to comment — it highlights the company’s rocky path forward as it continues to tackle hardware.
Project Aura, which is itself an effort to reboot Glass in the wake of a poor consumer interest, appears to be shrouded in uncertainty. A source familiar with the efforts describes the group as still trying to figure out its exact direction.
While the group is technically overseen by former Gap executive Ivy Ross, it is also under the purview of Tony Fadell, the embattled head of Google’s separate Nest division, which makes internet connected appliances and who has been the subject of some very critical reports in recent weeks.
Project Aura, which bills itself as “Google Glass and beyond,” formed last summer as a division within the search giant, as opposed to as a separate spin-off under parent company Alphabet. The team continued to work on a new enterprise edition of Glass after the company stopped selling the initial $1,500 version to consumers last year, as well as, reportedly, at least one prototype device that doesn’t include a screen. Last month, an unreleased version of the smart headset leaked on eBay.
Dowd was building a research and development team for interconnected hardware, software, and cloud services. Before joining Google, he worked at Adobe for roughly six years, most recently as the director of experience design. There, he worked on Adobe’s first foray into hardware, leading design for a digital pen and a ruler combo, Ink & Slide.
Aura isn’t the only Google hardware project in flux.
Regina Dugan, the leader of its Advanced Technology and Projects Group, ATAP, defected to Facebook earlier this week. At ATAP she led efforts for its modular smartphone concept, Project Ara, which has faced delays, as well as Project Tango, a 3D mapping technology that Google and Lenovo will be baking into a smartphone this year.
ATAP’s goal was to push out mobile-focused, research-intensive projects on tight time-spans, but with Dugan’s departure, the company is still trying to figure out its fate, according to the same source. Some of its employees have already shifted into its virtual reality division, Re/code recently reported.
Google has big ambitions for virtual and augmented reality, Clay Bavor, the leader of that division, recently told Wired. Although Google Glass was an early version of augmented reality, there’s no indication that the two groups have teamed up.
Dowd posted the following picture on Instagram before leaving the company:
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