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Intel closes wearables group, killing off smart glasses project

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The tech company has confirmed that it plans to close its New Devices Group, and put an end to its ongoing Vaunt augmented reality (AR) glasses project.

The group was formed in 2013 to develop wearable devices, with an initial focus on fitness trackers. During its existence, the group partnered with companies such as Tag Heuer, with which it worked on an upmarket modular Android Wear smartwatch.

The Vaunt glasses – the group’s latest major project – aim to steer clear of the clunky, ostentatious appearance of other smart glasses, with the appearance of an ordinary pair of thick-framed glasses.

However, the glasses use a low-power laser (negating the need for a heavy battery) to project information onto the wearer’s retina. The glasses can display, for instance, directions sent via Bluetooth from a smartphone. In order to keep the glasses as light as possible, Intel engineers tucked away the necessary electronics inside the arms of the glasses.

According to a statement by Intel, the Vaunt glasses project – known internally as ‘Superlight’ – is a good example of “truly differentiated, consumer augmented reality glasses”.

“Intel is continuously working on new technologies and experiences. Not all of those develop into a product we choose to take to market […] We are going to take a disciplined approach as we keep inventing and exploring new technologies, which will sometimes require tough choices when market dynamics don’t support further investment,” Intel stated.

Tech companies have struggled to create smart glasses with widespread consumer appeal. Google’s Google Glass smart glasses, which went on sale in the US in 2013, ultimately proved unpopular due to their awkward appearance and privacy concerns surrounding the inclusion of an integrated video camera. After putting an end to the project in 2015, the smart glasses were revived in July 2017 for business use with Google Glass Enterprise Edition.

Meanwhile, Snap’s photo and video-focused Spectacles appeared popular during summer 2017, although subsequent reports suggested that just 150,000 units of the £129.99 Spectacles had been sold.

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