Et tu, Intel? Vaunt Smartglasses Better Than Google Glass?
At 4:30am, I don’t normally jerk straight up at my desk and blurt, “Whoa!” at news of yet another tech gizmo that’s “coming later this year.” But that’s what I did when I watched the video demo of Intel’s prototype Vaunt smartglasses. I truly believe you will too! Here's the scoop on this new gadget that has me all googly-eyed…
What is Intel Vaunt?
Everyone who follows tech knows the tragi-comedy that was Google Glass, the search king’s first stab at smartglasses five years ago. A “pair of Glass” cost $1200 retail and -- Wait, what? There’s one pair left for sale at $1,245.75 with free shipping… at Walmart?!
This has to be a joke! I’m not whipping out my credit card to learn the punchline, though, and I’m sure you know better, too. But that’s what Google Glass looked like: bulky, alien, creepy, and uncomfortable.
The worst part of Google Glass was the eerie, menacingly red glowing LED that faced anyone who faced a Glass wearer (“Glassie,” or "Glasshole" as they came to be derisively called). That light informed its viewer that he or she was being video recorded! And the victim… er, subject… never knew what the awesome power of Google was doing with that footage.
Was Glass “recognizing” my face? Was it matching my face to my driver’s license photo and displaying to the Glassie my home address? Was it searching mug shot databases for me; voter registration databases; real estate transactions? The “viewer” could never know.
If the viewer wasn’t paying attention or was passing by across the street, he/she might not know his/her privacy was being invaded by the biggest invader of all, Google! Viewers might never know who was viewing them. And if they did, it was awkward and creepy. Who wants someone at the next table in a restaurant recording a video of them eating spaghetti?
No wonder many bars banned Google Glass after several fights broke out. I am reminded of Eddie Murphy’s 1983 stand-up comedy performance, released to video under the title, “Delirious.” In one segment, the ever-outrageous Murphy faced an obnoxious guy with a camera and said indignantly, “Get that (bleep) away from me, man! If I want my (bleepin’) picture taken I’ll steal a car, muther(bleeper)!”
Google Glass was withdrawn from sale at the start of 2015. The software development kit remains available, but no more of the physical product is being sold (unless that third-party Walmart seller above isn’t joking). Civilization heaved a huge sigh of relief.
How is Vaunt Different from Glass?
The video starts with a question: "What if smart glasses didn't make you look like a techno cyborg jerk?" And then it goes into a discussion of why you might want to wear them. By the end of this seven minute video, you'll have some food for thought.
It seems Intel has learned much from Google’s mistake. Instead of trying to answer the question, “What am I looking at?” Vaunt answers the question, “What else should I or can I look at while appearing to look at what’s in front of me?” The differences have enormous consequences in Vaunt’s social acceptability, design, and probably in its price (“to be determined).
First, Vaunt is not threatening. It looks like a normal pair of eyeglasses; a bit thick and geeky, but this is a prototype of an awesome engineering feat. Intel is cramming circuitry into Vaunt and miniaturizing it to a degree unprecedented in consumer electronics. The result is nondescript, as smartglasses should be.
Second, there is no camera or red “Sauron eye” in Vaunt! You can rest assured that a Vaunt wearer (street term to be determined) is not scanning you and invading your privacy. So there will be no reason for noses to be punched, groins to be kicked, or even an Eddie Murphy quotation. Whew!
Vaunt communicates with the smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device that everyone carries these days. That device connects to your email server, your text message server, your Kindle e-book library (I’m imagining examples here). All the notifications and information on your phone or other smart device is available to you without having to look at the device.
Suppose you’re talking to an interesting person who you don’t want to insult by constantly glancing at your phone. No problem; when that important email you’re awaiting arrives, a notification appears only to you as a 3D projection on your Vaunt lenses. But you won’t see it and (be distracted by it) unless you wish to see it.
The device uses a low-power laser to bounce images off the lens, and directly on to your retina. So even if you have poor vision, the text displayed by Vaunt will appear in perfect focus. This could be a game changer for people who have trouble reading street signs. And I'm guessing it would be fairly trivial for it to translate signs and other text from one language to another.
Useful But Not Annoying
Content is displayed below a Vaunt wearer’s normal, level-eyed field of vision. To view it, you just glance down slightly and there it is! Other eye gestures, so subtle that interesting person sees nothing amiss, let you communicate with Vaunt. A quick glance to the right might mean, “Display the email of which I was just notified.” Glance left and the email is dismissed. Nice!
“You can ignore people more efficiently” with Vaunt, too, says an Intel exec in the video. While an uninteresting but important person is “in your face,” you can be reading poetry or looking for a new job!
Other practical uses discussed in the video include having a recipe or your shopping list displayed in your field of view, or getting a quick Yelp review of a restaurant across the street.
My hat is off to Intel for getting the smartglasses paradigm right! As of now, Intel isn't saying when Vaunt will be available for purchase, but later this year they will be giving software developers an opportunity to create new applications for the device.
Of course, there are lots of social, ethical and privacy questions that are sure to arise, but this tech is coming, and we'll have to figure those things out. Your comments and questions are most welcome.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Feb 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Et tu, Intel? Vaunt Smartglasses Better Than Google Glass? (Posted: 16 Feb 2018)
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