While the ability to view hands-free, online information via smart glasses might be appealing, the reality to date is that most such wearables have made their wearers look weird, geeky, or worse. A lot of people don't want to appear to be "glassholes," as Google discovered when it unveiled Google Glass in 2013.
Intel could have the solution to that problem with a set of Vaunt smart eyeglasses, currently being tested as a prototype. Resembling the eyewear worn by the main characters in "Kingsman: The Secret Service," as one commenter observed, the Vaunt glasses work by projecting images not onto the lens but directly onto the wearer's retina.
Developers will be able to begin testing Intel's smart glasses as part of an early access program later this year, according to a report yesterday in The Verge. However, Intel may also be selling off a majority interest in its augmented reality division this year, Bloomberg reported last week, citing "people familiar with the plan."
No Spy Cameras or 'Social Cost'
Designed to resemble normal eyewear and weighing less than 50 grams, the Vaunt carries none of the "social cost" that has come with other, less unobtrusive wearables, according to Itai Vonshak, head of products at Intel's New Devices Group. They also don't come with a camera that can record people without their knowledge, or with many of the other features that put people off about the Google Glass and similar devices.
Instead, the Vaunt uses a low-power, vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser to project a tiny image directly onto the retina, in the lower-right part of the wearer's peripheral vision so the image is not visible when looking straight ahead. This enables the user to check for information or notifications only when needed, and not be distracted by the projections otherwise.
"The image is actually painted into the back of your retina," said Jerry Bautista, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group. "If you wear prescription glasses, the prescription is used for looking at the world, but not for the image we send you. You can have terrible vision and still see a bright, sharp, clear image that looks like it comes from infinity."
Potential Uses in Retail, Healthcare, More
Members of Intel's Vaunt team say the wearable offers potential benefits in a wide range of use cases: comparing Yelp reviews when trying to decide between two adjacent restaurants, reading shopping lists while in the store, following recipes while baking, and getting walking directions to your destination after parking your car . Developers will likely come up with even more possibilities once the device becomes available for testing later this year, according to the team.
There are no details on possible pricing yet for the Vaunt, another issue that troubled Google Glass, which sold for $1,500 and up when it launched to the public in 2014. Google halted consumer sales of its wearable in early 2015, but has since released an enterprise-focused version for use in industrial and other business settings.
The market for virtual reality and augmented reality technology could see revenues of $80 billion by 2025, according to a 2016 report from Goldman Sachs. In addition to videogames and other types of entertainment, VR and AR could see growing benefits in healthcare, real estate, and retail, the report noted.