Intel's Vaunt smart glasses beam information directly to your retina

When you think of smart glasses, it's likely that Google's experimental face computer, Google Glass, with all of its hangups, is the first thing that pops into mind. Glass eventually failed to find its footing (outside of the enterprise space, anyway), but we've since seen more robust augmented- and virtual-reality efforts pop up with the likes of HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality, among others. Now, Intel is looking to enter the space with Vaunt, smart glasses that look to keep things basic while serving up some information at a glance.

Vaunt is still very much in development, but The Verge recently got a look at what Intel is cooking up. Unlike Glass, Vaunt looks like a standard pair of glasses, which is the whole point. "We wanted to make sure somebody puts this on and gets value without any of the negative impact of technology on their head," Itai Vonshak, head of products at Intel's New Devices Group (NDG), told The Verge. "Everything from the ground up is designed to make the technology disappear." Despite appearances, Intel's Vaunt glasses are fitted with completely custom hardware. The electronics are housed inside of Vaunt's stems, but in such a way as to keep the frame flexible.

What makes the hardware particularly interesting, however, is how it displays information. A low-powered laser sits on the right side of the glasses and shines a monochromatic red image into a holographic reflector sitting by the right lens. The reflector then bounces the image, at a resolution of around 440 x 150, directly to your retina. And because the image is beamed onto your retina, it should always be in focus.

If the thought of a laser beaming into your eye is worrisome, Intel claims that Vaunt's is of such low power that it doesn't require certification. Further, the image isn't constantly being beamed into your vision. Rather, it disappears if you aren't looking directly at it, so you can't completely ignore information until you need it.

As for use cases, the types of information Vaunt may display are currently in flux. Things like walking directions and text or call notifications are obvious, but it will be up to developers to decide what experiences to create. Voice assistant integration with something like Alexa is a possibility, as are scenarios where you could quickly glance at contextual information about things around you, like ratings for restaurants.

It's unclear if or when we might expect to see Vaunt hit the market, but Intel at least appears to be exploring a path to market. Bloomberg recently reported that the company is seeking investors "who can contribute to the business with strong sales channels, industry or design expertise" for its augmented reality business. Intel isn't saying when Vaunt could make it to consumers, but Bloomberg's report claims that the company aiming to start offering smart glasses "as soon as this year."

For more, check out The Verge's in-depth hands-on.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

24 Comments
  • Scary. Lol
  • Wonder if it would work without the lenses.
  • How?
  • Maybe I misinterpreted from the article and video but the image is beamed on to your retina not the glass itself so is the glass required to display? Or is it purely based on the direction your eyes are looking as to whether you see it or not...
  • Sigh... It's in the article
  • The image is bounced off a reflector embedded in the glass...
  • Interesting.. I don't see why you would need the lenses.
  • Beaming laser in to your eyes, is an absolute november golf no matter how low powered. For intel to claim it won't harm vision to even carry a dust of weight, they will have to have public trials over a very long time. Eye detoriation occurs over time, slightly faster with optical astigmatism. If you have that, then you need to be very, very careful. Shift focus constantly and do eye exercises, focusing on a pen tip and move it set directions at set intervals then randomly without moving your head, only your eyes. Three exercises, one per eye and together. Safety out of the way, it would be interesting how the lens are shaped and how they handle perscriptions for lenses. The shape of lens matters as with optical astigmatism light diffracts differently so a curved lenses like some Gunnars glasses can induce headaches. In terms of the tech itself, I'm concerned about the security aspect of it. What happens if someone just pulls the glasses off your face?
    Since most people are fond of rendering people blind and go "wow!! how do you see out of these things!?!?" I don't wear glasses however I have seen this occur publicly and amongst people I know. Secondly, i'm curious how they are creating the lazer beam that is carrying the data. Never the less it goes to show were we are heading in terms of Augmented reality.
  • Well it says low enough not to "require certification" not that it wouldn't cause damage with prolonged use. 😏
  • @pairadyce, certification generally covers prolonged use however unlike any other laser out there they aren't certified to shine directly into your eyes at all lol. So this is really a legal loophole double speak when it comes to intel's glasses.
  • Your eyes are exposed to radiation all day long...
  • @rodneyej but these aren't being beamed directly into your eyes unlike these glasses. The kinetic of potential of the photons is overall lower than a direct laser beam into your eyes. Now, this also depends on how concentrated the laser beam is - narrow beam from the centre of the lens and wide beam from the entire lens. Regardless both will cause some sort of deterioration of eye muscles that allow you to focus. The narrow beam less so; but you have a greater risk of retina damage compared to the wide beam. But the wide beam has a greater risk of damaging your focusing muscles. Think about x rays work, in small doses they cell damage is not that high and plus the human body is constantly recreating cells and cells also dying - that's the aging process in the simplest terms possible. The best example is how dust is created, as it's mostly dead skin cells.
    If however you are in an environment where exposed to these x rays for a very long time, your cells will mutate due to attenuation. I'm not going to go to much detail here as it's involves alot of in depth physics and so I'll just briefly touch on how attenuation works. When a x ray photon travels through air it knocks out Electrons from the electrons in the atoms in air, these causes several things to happen. One of the key points is pair production where a positron and electron are created, these pairs have various energy levels. Anything below 1.022 mEV is not absorbed by your body. These travel at varies derivatives of light speed due to their kinetic potential and mass plus other factors. However they do not last very long as energy dissipates as they travel towards you and when they hit your cells they are absorbed in several different ways.
    So in way light speed is both a constant and a variable, just like electrons have duel behaviour (wave duality).
    {It's due to these several principles of attenuation that you get skin damage / tan when out in the sun too long. Probably why they don't teach it school (as people panic and take things waaaaaay out of context lol - especially some in the US - the news is really sensationalism over factual discussion - why your news shows are often filled with panelist who often say some crazy stuff - more evident over the last year especially the current political climate - compared to the UK - it's more fact based than sensationalistic - the political climate here is much more mature and unbiased - well, there is some bias but not as much as some US news channels - the bias is overt it's hilarious - such as fox news), because you are basically being slowly roasted by the sun haha - hence the use of sun screen lotions. If it wasn't for our atmosphere filtering the bulk of the UV rays and how biology works we wouldn't exist. It's truly remarkable - which is why the biosphere must be protected for future generations}. Now with these glasses beaming lasers directly into your eyes, you have a constant level of positrons and electrons being emitted in the must vulnerable part of your anatomy, your eyes. Which is not able to recreate cells as fast your body. So now these cells will be over saturated (prolonged use) you don't wear glasses for just a few minute or seconds do you? Lol.
    But it really depends how the laser beam is generated and the beam formation. Sure, I get everyone is hit with varies degrees of radiation but in the grand scheme of things they are relatively harmless. Providing you don't live next to a nuclear power plant or exposed to toxic waste 😱.
  • @TechFreak1, you're exagerating the quantum effects here. Photons with less energy than UV have no ionizing effect and therefore don't do that kind of damage. Yes, there is still a quantum foam with matter and antimatter pairs seething in and out of existence, but that also happens in the void of space and cancels out within a quantum unit of time and is therefore meaningless in a macro environment. No amount of visible light will cause a tan or sunburn, because it's not at a frequency (too low energy) to trigger the melanin release or cause DNA damage, like UV and higher energy light (x-ray, gamma ray). While I'm knoledgeable on the optics physics, I'm not very knownledgeable on the eye musculature. I don't know how beaming information onto the retina would affect long-term vision from a focus perspective. But I would assume that if it's drawn correctly on the retina, that focus is not a factor (unless that very fact causes the eye to stop "exercising" to get into focus and therefore weaken, but with the % of people who already need corrective lenses, that seems like a minor issue). Think about how the eye focuses generally -- it adjusts the aperature for brightness control and then adapts the focal length in order to get a sharp image to form on the retina. Lasers, unlike reflected scattered light, are coherent and maintain their image without needing to be refocused. No matter how good or poor someone's vision is (at least with respect to focus problems, blindness or blockages would be different), the laser image on the retina should always be in focus.
  • @GranitestateCollin I feel that you have totally misunderstood what I said, nowhere have I said "visible light" I said "exposure to the sun". Plus I was refering to X rays and attenuation when it comes to ionising radiation caused either through characterisitic radiation + bremsstrahlung radiation, pair production, compton scattering, photoelectric effect etc in terms of x rays not visible light. I wasn't exaggerating the effect rather simplifying it, because prolonged exposure to the sun (not visible light) can cause sun burn due to the UV spectrum and associated radiation Visible light can be created in many ways that do not have any elements of radiation at all otherwise we all would be in danger from prolonged exposure to ceiling lights for example. In addition I did say in simplified manner that bulk of the UV rays are blocked by the atmosphere lol. In regards to the laser being beamed into the retina, I constantly maintained it depends how that laser beam is created lol but you need to take into account energy released in a laser beam, which is why with some laser pointers you can burn paper or material and skin. Furthermore almost all lasers come with disclaimer not to shine into your eyes. The thing is everything creates energy and gives out heat + takes in heat over time as an experiment, place a piece of paper or plastic carry bag ontop of a LED lamp depending on the LEDs the paper will burn and the plastic will melt (Even on a torch but that depends on the balance of equlibrium between the the torch, the air and the material. I have a torch somewhere that caused paper to burn, I was tracing a drawing. I also tried an LED lamp and same thing). Similiarly it is due to this a light bulb gets hotter over time, yes, I know I'm over simplifying things again but that is the gist of it as no matter what sort of light bulb you use, led, filament etc they will get hot over time. If this was not true, then go by all means go ahead and try changing a light bulb after it's been on for several hours :P lol. In regards to the laser from the glasses being beamed directly in to yours, my primary concern is the low cellular recovery rate of a person's eyes and the energy absorbtion from the laser over prolonged periods of time. In addition what would happen if the laser penetrates a persons brain. In terms of the cold vacuum of space that is entirely different matter as there are many other factors such as lack of gravity, distortion from instersteller bodies, solar flaires, pressure and other terms of matter that really don't fall into convential science without resorting to theories. The thing is for life to exist, there are constant chain reactions it's in the air, the light, the weather, the atmosphere, biological cells. The energy levels of these reactions amongst elements determine what effects they have, of course with biology you also need to think about DNA traits. I am no means claiming to be genius or know how this technology works in detail in terms of mathematics, but the physical evidence is undeniable from every day life. The crux of almost all theory is that it's they are at first hypothetical until physically proven. This is why certification for this product is absolutely crucial as they will need to prove this laser beam is not deterimental over prolonged use. Because if it's not detrimental, it opens up new frontier of computing and paves the way to nano scale technology.
  • First, I confess I don't know anything about the specifics of this technology. With that said, as long as the power incident on the retina is not greater than that from ambient lighting, there is no danger. Eyes can obviously take room level (even daylight level) lighting indefinitely. That's what the eye evolved to do. So IF (big if, I admit) the light is at that level, should be fine. That would not be unreasonable -- if it's meant to just be information overlaying background info, then you'd expect it to be at about that level, any brighter would be, well, too bright to have in your field of view. Also, the article mentions its a red laser. Red light caries significantly less energy than blue light (~7000 angstroms vs ~4000 angstroms, where there is an inverse linear relationship between wavelength and intensity), which also helps keep the impact to a minimum.
  • I get what you mean but my primary concern is prolonged use in reality.
  • Same flaw that the Google Glasses had, it's just a heads-up display. Can't do anything more than what a smartwatch can do and is way less practical.
  • I will bet that intels will be much more "complicated" than just a heads up display when released.   This is what Hololens should have been...not that fried chicken bucket thing it is now. 
  • This at least looks like normal glasses.
  • Not true... The more hands free the better... A smartwatch is definitely not hands free. Lol
  • Correction: Way more practical...
  • Basically what Laforge have been working on with their Shima glasses for a few years... https://laforgeoptical.com/ With Laforge being a start-up and Intel being, well...Intel! It´ll be interesting to see who gets their product to market first...
  • But but but! FOV!! RESOLUTION!!
    /s
  • Joe90 is alive!