Google has hinted that the company's much-maligned Google Glass headset could one day make a comeback as "augmented reality" technology improves.

Rick Osterloh, the head of Google's hardware division, said hi-tech glasses were "very interesting to us", although he admitted it would be years before they would become a mass market product.

Google first released its camera-equipped glasses, which featured a screen for reading texts and discretely watching videos, to the public in 2014. They sparked a privacy backlash and Google cancelled the project a year later, with the scheme ranking as one of the company's major failures.

However, recent technological advances have reignited interest in augmented reality headsets.

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Intel and the secretive US start-up Magic Leap are both working on holographic glasses while Microsoft's HoloLens went on sale in 2016. Apple is also rumoured to be developing its own device.

Both Apple and Google introduced AR capabilities into their mobile phone software last year that allows virtual objects to interact with the real world via the camera screen, but a set of lightweight glasses are seen as a more likely future home for the technology.

"We're trying to determine what the best future will look like for other kinds of ways to experience AR than just phones," Osterloh said.

"We're constantly looking at all sorts of different form factors; we have a lot of research happening, but we have no imminent product announcement.

"It will take a while for the technologies to mature ... it will be a few years before that's the case. We're going to invest for a long period of time in that area as the technology catches up to where people want it to go."