Intel Vaunt Smart Glasses Use Retina Projection Tech, Won't Make You Look Like A Dork

Intel is stepping into the wearable market in a big way this year with its upcoming Vaunt smart glasses. Now, we know what you're thinking -- you're probably getting visions of "glassholes" walking around with dorky-looking Google Glass. However, Vaunt bucks that trend with styling that looks remarkably close to traditional eyewear.

The Verge was given exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the smart glasses, which are a product of Intel’s New Devices Group (NDG). The Vaunt prototypes don’t include an external camera, which helps to eliminate the "creeper" factor that prompted many to shun Google Glass. In addition, the entire setup weighs only 50 grams, allowing to sit comfortably on the bridge of your nose and drape around your ears.

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Intel Vaunt Smart Glasses (Image Source: The Verge)

The Vaunt's magic takes place courtesy of two modules located on each of the glasses' arms which feature the processor and communications chips. Using Bluetooth, Vaunt is able to communicate with your iPhone or Android smartphone, taking commands from apps running on those respective platforms. The "smart" part of the glasses comes from a very low-powered laser (VCSEL) that is mounted in the rim of the lenses. The laser is capable of beaming a monochromatic (red) image that bounces off a holographic reflector. The resulting image reaches the back of your eyeball, making direct contact with your retina.

“It is a class one laser. It’s such low power that we don’t [need it certified],” said NDG industrial design director Mark Eastwood. “And in the case of [Vaunt], it is so low-power that it’s at the very bottom end of a class one laser.”

In practice, the user sees a 400x150 image in their peripheral view. Due to the way that the image is projected, the display is capable of working with or without prescription lenses. Intel envisions Vaunt being used as a discrete way of viewing incoming notifications or other important pieces of information on-the-fly. Today, those tasks are handled by pulling your smartphone out of your pocket/purse or raising your wrist to look at your smartwatch. Either practice could often be rather off-putting in social situations. Nothing says "I'm interested in your conversation" like constantly looking at your watch whenever it vibrates.

Word on the street last week was that Intel was in talks to sell a majority stake in its augmented reality business. However, according to The Verge, Intel is more likely looking for a partner to help bring devices like Vaunt to the retail sector. If Intel is able to find a suitable partner, Vaunt could reach paying customers later this year. However, as we’ve encountered numerous Intel wearable prototypes that never left the design labs, we’re not holding our breaths on this one.