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July 15, 2014 6:46 pm
Babak Parviz, who led the development team on Google’s high-tech spectacles, announced his move in cryptic fashion, posting Amazon’s logo on his Google+ page, with the comment “status: super excited.” However, he has so far declined to reveal what projects he will work on at the Seattle-based online retailer.
Amazon’s coup in poaching one of Google’s leading lights underlines the efforts being made by the industry’s biggest companies to prepare for the “next wave” of technologies. All are heavily investing in futuristic concepts in an effort to predict what ideas may disrupt their core businesses.
Mr Parviz was also the brain behind the Google’s “smart contact lenses”, which will help diabetics track their blood sugar levels and communicate the information to mobile devices. On Tuesday, Google announced a deal with pharmaceutical company Novartis to help develop the lenses commercially.
“It’s about these companies working out what’s the next new thing,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, a technology analyst at Forrester Research. “We don’t know what that will be because its not been developed yet. So they just need smart people who have developed something the world hasn’t seen before.”
In the past year, Google has been active in acquiring robotics and artificial intelligence companies, hiring experts in those fields for its Google X laboratory, which is developing the Glass headset and driverless cars. Amazon plans to create a fleet of drones to deliver packages to customers within minutes of ordering. In March, Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, the makers of a virtual reality headset, for $2bn, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg saying it could be the “next platform” in computing.
Google said Mr Parviz had “made great contributions to the fields of computer science, optics, and miniaturized electronics. We know he’ll do the same in his next endeavors and we wish him well.”
Mr Parviz joined Google in early 2010, after co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin noticed an academic paper he had written about putting electronics within contact lenses.
Amazon’s interest in Mr Parviz’s optics expertise comes just weeks after it launched the Fire Phone, a mobile device with an advanced 3D display. The group continues to expand its business far beyond online retailing, spending nearly $6.6bn on research and development in 2013.
Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, said Mr Parviz’s move could signal the company needed more world-class expertise for its mobile devices.
“Amazon appears to be stepping up its efforts in hardware,” said Mr Wood. “The eye-watering investment in the Fire Phone with its ... 3D-like user interface shows it has an appetite for advanced hardware development.”
Mr Parviz is an Iranian-American, who is expected to spend most of his time in his home town of Seattle, where Amazon is based, and where he also serves as a part-time professor at the University of Washington.
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