Intel Introduces New Smart Glasses

Intel Introduces New Smart Glasses

Wednesday, 28 February, 2018 - 07:00
Intel develops the “Vaunt” smart glasses. (Reuters)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Intel has developed a pair of smart glasses that won't make you look like a hopeless geek. The new glasses, dubbed “Vaunt”, are still in the prototype phase. They look like ordinary glasses, with a faint, red glimmer that occasionally appears on the right lens.

Information sent to the glasses appear to be displayed on a screen but in reality is beamed to the retina of a wearer's eye. In a review published in The Verge, Dieter Bohn wrote: “The prototypes I wore in December also felt virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses. They come in several styles, work with prescriptions, and can be worn comfortably all day”.

Constant Focus

Vaunt uses Bluetooth and is designed to work with a smartphone, much as smartwatches do. A very low-powered laser (VCSEL) shines a red monochrome image at around 400 x 150 pixels onto a holographic reflector on the right lens of the glasses. That image is sent to the back of the eyeball, directly to the retina. Because the image is sent directly to the retina, it's always in focus, which is why the system works on both prescription and non-prescription glasses.

In his review, Bohn said that the Intel prototype did not have a microphone, however, he expected that future models may have one that would enable them to interact with artificial intelligence software like Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant or Apple's Siri.

He also revealed that Intel will be launching an early access program for developers later this year, so they can start experimenting with things the glasses might be able to do.

Limited Capacities

While you may not stick out in a crowd wearing Vaunt, you're not going to overwhelm anyone with its power, either. Eric Abbruzzese, a senior analyst at ABI Research commented on Intel’s new innovation saying that the new glasses has no camera, touchpad, or microphone.

Humble applications: Abbruzzese explained during an interview with TechNewsWorld: “That means these are only going to serve the simplest applications, mainly around notifications, navigation, step-by-step instruction, and personal notifications.”

For her part, Kristen Hanich, an analyst at Parks Associates said: “It's a pretty light-touch device, so it mostly allows users to see contextual information such as notifications from phones, map directions, recipes, shopping lists and such.”

Augmented reality devices like Vaunt have been used in settings such as manufacturing, logistics and healthcare, Hanich noted. However, a lot of those applications are being driven by more powerful devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft's HoloLens that have the ability to see what's directly in front of the user.

However, Vaunt’s potential to attract the regular consumer may not be an easy task. Experts see that it hasn't solved one of Google Glass' primary downfalls, which was lack of valuable use cases for consumers.

Hanich said that consumers will have to be sold on the value of Vaunt, but that sell will be easier if the price is right. If it's priced similar to a smart watch, then there'll be some potential there, she noted.

Not a Gamer choice. Gaming is one area that's attracted consumer interest in virtual reality and augmented reality devices, but Vaunt isn't likely to make much headway in that market. "The device is too simplistic for any visually intensive applications," Abbruzzese said.

Power is another issue for Vaunt. Hanich noted that the glasses don't have cameras, or a lot of processing ability, or the ability to display data in any color besides red. “Something like Pokémon Go may work on them, but developers will have to sacrifice graphics and the ability to display an object in sync with the terrain," she explained.

However, there are some advantages of not having a camera. Hanich said: “Part of the backlash against Google Glass was that the glasses were so conspicuous, including a visible camera. Without a camera, Vaunt has few problems in terms of privacy."

Futuristic Market

Although devices like Vaunt are creating a buzz now, it likely will be a year or two before AR glasses make it to the mass market. ABI predicted that the inflection point for consumer AR headgear likely will be in the late 2019-early 2020 time frame. Abbruzzese considered that it really requires strong brands and marketing to push AR glasses to the masses. Apple has such a brand, and it is rumored to have a pair of AR specs in the works.

Abbruzzese noted that Vaunt isn't likely to have that sort of impact, but they can be an important bridge between the consumer-side disappointments of Google Glass to a more realistic consumer AR market.

Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner said that Vaunt is a clear sign that wearable display technology is quickly advancing.

Talking to TechNewsWorld, he added that the new glasses represent a form factor that any technology provider would see as a great next step, as it's one that isn't that different from a typical pair of eyeglasses.”

Blau concluded that “we still have some years before smart glasses like Vaunt arrive in consumers’ hands, but it's great to see these early prototypes as they get brands and businesses interested in smart glasses, even at this early stage of their development.”

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