Intel's New "Smart Glasses" Shoot Laser Beam Directly Into Your Retina

For anyone who wanted a pair of Google glasses but didn't want to look like a lazy Borg cosplay, Intel may have just what you need. Just one catch; you have to be OK with a laser firing photons directly into your retina. 

Consummate techie and Executive Editor at The VergeDeiter Bohn, took Intel's Vaunt smart glasses for a test drive - which he says are "virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses," and are the "first pair of smart eyeglasses I've tried that doesn't look ridiculous."

The smart glasses - which weigh less than 50 grams - work by projecting a very low-powered laser (a VCSEL), which shines a "red, monochrome image somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 x 150 pixels" on to a holographic reflector on the right lens of the glasses - which is then reflected directly into your eyeball and onto your retina.

Intel swears it's safe. 

 “It is a class one laser. It’s such low power that we don’t [need it certified],” he says, “and in the case of [Vaunt], it is so low-power that it’s at the very bottom end of a class one laser.” -Mark Eastwood, Director of Industrial Design, Intel NDG group

We use a holographic grading embedded into the lens to reflect the correct wavelengths back to your eye. The image is called retinal projection, so the image is actually ‘painted’ into the back of your retina,” says Jerry Bautista, the team lead for wearable devices at Intel's NDG. Due to the fact that the glasses project images directly onto the retina, the projected image is in focus on both prescription and non-prescription lenses. 

In addition to the micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS, or "Pico") projector, the glasses also pack hardware and software for Bluetooth communication with your phone, as well as an accelerometer and a compass. Future models may even include a microphone for use with virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri.

And of this, along with batteries, are contained within a remarkably compact chassis. 

Requiring a custom fitting to each user, the glasses project a stream of information on what Bohn says looks like a screen, delivering a wide variety of information:

At its core, Vaunt is simply a system for displaying a small heads-up style display in your peripheral vision. It can show you simple messages like directions or notifications. It works over Bluetooth with either an Android phone or an iPhone much in the same way your smartwatch does, taking commands from an app that runs in the background to control it.

When looking down, the Vaunt glasses project a "rectangle of red text and icons down in the lower right of your visual field," however, when the wearer is not glancing down in that direction, the display shuts off - as it was designed to be "nonintrusive," according to Bohn. 

”We didn’t want the notification to appear directly in your line of sight,” says Eastwood. “We have it about 15 degrees below your relaxed line of sight. … An LED display that’s always in your peripheral vision is too invasive. … this little flickering light. The beauty of this system is that if you choose not to look at it, it disappears. It is truly gone.” -The Verge




Bohn says he adapted to the glasses very quickly - writing that it became "natural within less than an hour to glance over at it to make it appear, or ignore it and focus on the person I was speaking with." 

Or, as it turns out, not focus on the person you're speaking with:

So I’m talking to you right now and you feel like you mean so much,” says Ronen Soffer, general manager for software products at NDG, “but I’m actually playing a trivia game right now.” (He wasn’t actually doing that, to be clear.) But after a day of playing around with the Vaunt prototypes, I completely believe that sort of thing is not just possible soon, but probably inevitable. Intel is thinking about those implications, too. Soffer wryly jokes: “You can ignore people more efficiently that way.”

While it was unclear how users might interact with the Vaunt glasses, some have suggested that voice recognition, head gestures or both could activate it - or one could "trust the AI to show you what you need to know in the moment," perhaps things such as nearby gas stations if you've failed to notice that your fuel light has been on for the last 12 miles. 

Imagine walking down the street, looking at a shop or a restaurant, and instantly checking out Yelp reviews. Or perhaps the system could be used to project player stats in real time while at a sporting event. Whatever the case, Intel's Brian Soffer says the company's AI might just know exactly what you need to see. 

“Listen, sometimes a better way to succeed is to make the problem smaller,” says Soffer. Intel’s AI for figuring out what to show you is “focused on certain types of moments, and we’ve been developing this technology for five or six years now to focus on those wearable, out-and-about moments.”

Developing the platform

Intel will be launching an "early access program" later this year so that developers can begin to tinker with the Vaunt system - developing apps for both phones and the glasses themselves. 

The Verge's Bohn speculates that apps may directly stream content to the Vaunt glasses from the cloud, presumably to minimize on-board processing requirements - similar to how a Google Cast-enabled TV works as an endpoint for streaming video. When asked if this was the plan, Intel said "we'll talk about that at a later date," adding that "it really is built as an open platform ... built from the ground up to be a mobile platform that accesses the internet. And a wearable device gets really powerful when it changes the way you access the internet."

While it's unclear if Intel will bring the Vaunt glasses to market or find a partner to bring them to retail, The Verge notes that Intel is reportedly looking to sell a majority stake in its augmented reality business, according to Bloomberg

Intel has a reputation for showing off ideas that never turn into real products. It comes up with a cool concept, proves out the technology, then hopes to convince others to take that idea and turn it into a real product. CEO Brian Krzanich comes on a CES stage, talks about a charging bowl (or hey, smart eyeglasses!), and then we wait to see if they’ll come to market. Often (maybe even usually), they don’t.

I think the intention with Vaunt is a little different from Intel’s usual playbook. For one thing, Bloomberg’s report confirms that Intel is looking for partners with “strong sales channels … rather than financial backers.” For another, Bautista and I spoke a bit about how the sales channels for eyeglasses work now back in December.

”There’s something on the order of 2.5 billion people that require corrective lenses,” he says. “They get their glasses from somewhere. Sixty percent of them come from eye care providers. … We would say these glasses belong in those kinds of channels. People are going to buy them like they buy their glasses today.” -The Verge

While the Vaunt glasses are lighter, better looking, and possibly have a longer battery life than other smart glasses such as Magic Leap or HoloLens, they also project less information to the user. That said, as Bohn notes, the Vaunt is the "first pair of smart eyeglasses I've tried that doesn't look ridiculous." 

Now let's see what developers can do to make them rock and roll. Someday we'll be telling our grandchildren about the days before laser beams were projected into our retinas. Hopefully we won't be blind in one eye. 


inhibi booboo Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:28 Permalink

Woohoo, another device that hooks up to my phone! So I can now have my computer, phone, watch, and now glasses all ping at the same time! So exciting! /sarc

How much time and effort did they waste on this bs? None of this will change the way we live. None of it. I don't care even if they made the glasses translate foreign words in real-time, this still really wont change anything. Except maybe giving a hell of a lot more business to optometrists in the future.

A company like Intel could be doing so much in just the processor market alone, lets see, something like not including massive bugs in their hardware, looking at implementing 'smart' (i.e. efficient, self-upgrading, neuron based processing networks) in all aspects of infrastructure like transpo & water management, the two MASSIVE areas that regulate a large portion of daily life. They could be making custom processors for hobbyists, a HUGE market. The fact that some Italian profs had to make Arduino in the first place to satisfy the massive demand shows you how out of touch companies like Intel & IBM are. Even ASUS has gotten into the game.

Instead, Intel has this laser focus on laptop/comp processors & mobile device processors, both of which markets are so insanely saturated as to be worthless to fight in. Even NVidia has moved onto new paths, like cheap entry-level AI/supercomputing chips.

Brian Krzanich should be fired. He's a pathetic leader, without a single modern outlook. His fight with Qualcomm should've given the board some hints, and the Spectre/Meltdown fiasco should have sealed his resignation. Now apparently he wants to shift the publics attention to some Google glass knockoff, that provides NOTHING new, and instead creates more issues (every glass needs custom fitting? That should be a sign that they dug this out of a bin of failed R&D projects).

The US is failing miserably these days on all fronts (currency, wars, infrastructure, etc) and even the Obama-loved & loving Sillycon Valley is showing all signs of rot and decay. They have all this money, all these engineers, and I swear I've seen more complete and game-changing products from a 4 person startup than I have from IBM, Intel, and Apple for the last decade.

It makes one wonder if all the billions are going to the C-suite & shitty (software/app) acquisitions rather than R&D.


In reply to by booboo

MarsInScorpio WTFRLY Mon, 02/12/2018 - 08:53 Permalink


What is this mental derangement of obsession about Jews you suffer?

You, and the growing list of mentally ill vicious trolls just like you, are turning ZH into Zionist Haters.

Like flies swarming on shit, your ilk of obsessed, obnoxious one-trick ponies is making the comments thread unreadable. 

It's always the same puke: "You're a Joo;" "Hasbarra-controlled;" "Some lewd homo-erotic reference to genitals" . . . and on and on with your sick shit.

You and your multiple personalities are destroying the Comment thread with your shit-for-brains endless lewd and vile regurgitation of the same "joomani" horseshit.

You are puke. Your trolls are puke. The whole bunch of you are mentally deranged beyond any rational individual's ability to wade through your deranged,  obsessive, puke.

GFY, then E S & D.


In reply to by WTFRLY

Lore HRClinton Mon, 02/12/2018 - 03:44 Permalink

You hit an important point in the context of this article. Why can't this new technology be made to beam a superior image OF THE ENTIRE FIELD OF VIEW to the retina?  It might replace all prescription eyeglass lenses and laser surgery overnight. 

For example, I could imagine a kind of opaque contact lens that blocks all light not emitted by the laser. The sharpness of your visual experience would be limited only by the specifications of the miniature cameras that you wear. (c) All Rights Reserved.

Clearly, the principles need to be understood much better, but I suspect that people will pay a lot for something that eliminates the need for conventional surgery, which seems comparatively crude. (Although that said, it might make sense to embed cameras permanently, like present-day lens replacement surgery.)  It might be possible to glean sufficient power from the human body, eliminating the need for external power source. (c) All Rights Reserved.

In reply to by HRClinton

Moving and Grooving Lore Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:13 Permalink

'Why can't this new technology be made to beam a superior image OF THE ENTIRE FIELD OF VIEW to the retina'


For the same reason that people who need glasses can't just get a new lens the way glaucoma suffers eventually do - glasses and contacts are a really big business with lots of lobbyists to prevent it, that's why.


But you're 100% right, IMHO, and it seems almost inevitable. Someone somewhere will just start doing it and the laws and regs will just have to catch up.



In reply to by Lore

Yen Cross Mon, 02/12/2018 - 01:03 Permalink

    Another Eric Schmidt boneheaded global domination idea?

   * BTW- Did you notice how dealers pinged the eur/usd off the downtrend line on the hourly chart?

  Did you notice the flags on the hourly U.S. equity index futures charts?

  Did you notice the neckline on that H/S hourly ES chart that runs right through the 2580 area?

MusicIsYou Mon, 02/12/2018 - 01:16 Permalink

Yeah yeah, Navin said his Opti-Grab eye glasses were safe too, and then after he got sued the only thing he had remaining was a pen, and his dog Shithead.

MusicIsYou Mon, 02/12/2018 - 01:19 Permalink

Ah yes laser glasses brought to us by the same tech industry who's smartphones are making the majority of children near sighted. What could possibly go wrong?