Intel Vaunt: Smart glasses that actually look like glasses

When Google Glass first launched, it seemed like the future of popular technology might be wearable. The problems with Glass proved to be too much, however. It raised questions about invasion of privacy with people able to record video just by looking in your direction. It also didn’t look very natural or attractive, seeming like something out of a sci-fi film, rather than an actual accessory. Well, Intel’s Vaunt might just be the smartglasses we always wanted.

At first glance, Intel’s gadget doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. A pair of black lightweight square framed glasses and nothing more. The glasses feature no external clues at all that they’re bursting with technology. There are no cameras or obvious projectors and no speakers or microphones. But if you’re the person wearing them, they offer a lot more to see. Located on the right side of the frames is a laser projector which can display notifications, messages and information. However, this data isn’t shown on Vaunt’s lenses. It’s projected directly onto your eye.

That information might have already raised a few eyebrows. Certainly, the concept of wearing a pair of glasses that shoots lasers at your eyes sounds a little alarming, to say the least. According to an interview conducted by the Verge, Vaunt’s laser projector is considered very safe. The projector creates holograms using a VCSEL (vertical cavity surface-emitting laser) of very low power. The image is projected into the eye as a red light and creates a clear, sharp 400 x 150-pixel image which appears on the lower half of the wearer’s line of sight. Because it’s sent directly into the eye to a particular degree, the image always appears in focus, apparently even for people with poor vision. The images are currently only projected in red light, meaning there are no complex, multicoloured portraits, at least not for the time being.

Intel has custom designed the majority of the technology to fit their Vaunt glasses. While the idea of having social media notifications popping up in your view while you go about your day might sound overwhelming, Intel is sure that they’ve found a good balance. Vaunt will use sophisticated AI to determine what information might be critical or relevant to its user. It can respond to simple eye movements to open or dismiss notifications and should be able to provide information about the immediate vicinity or even information about the person you’re speaking to on the phone. In the future, the glasses may reportedly come equipped with a microphone allowing the wearer to make commands via smart assistants like Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.

What Intel is keen to emphasise is the extreme potential of such smart wear. In the interview with the Verge, a representative made the comparison with smartphones and how nobody could have predicted the many uses that nobody could have predicted, but which have become standard within society. As smartphones opened up new possibilities by making information and technology much more accessible and convenient, Intel sees the same possibilities with a hands-free device as sophisticated as Vaunt.

The technology also creates a more private way to access your messages. Without an external screen, people can no longer read messages over your shoulder. Vaunt’s screen exists inside your eye. As long as you’re the one wearing the glasses, your messages and notifications are very much for your eyes only. Of course, there is the downside that this technology could prove highly detrimental to the human attention span. In an age of multitasking, it is common practice to play with a phone while watching tv or send messages while trying to have a conversation in person. If Vaunt provides us with an extra screen inside our eyes, the temptation to ignore the real world in favour of social media may grow too convenient to resist.

Vaunt glasses will be available in a range of frames and designs and are compatible with both Android and iPhones. Intel plans to give early testers access to the device soon.

Ronan Daly

Ronan Daly is a staff writer for My Good Planet who specialises in Technology and Science. With a Masters Degree in English, and over a decade's experience as a teacher and writer, Ronan has brought a breezy, learned style to My Good Planet, making occasionally complex material accessible and understandable to all.