Et tu, Intel? Vaunt Smartglasses Better Than Google Glass?

Category: Gadgets

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.

Intel Vaunt Smartglasses vs. Google Glass

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Google Glass was withdrawn from sale at the start of 2015.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.

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Most recent comments on "Et tu, Intel? Vaunt Smartglasses Better Than Google Glass?"

Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
16 Feb 2018

Not everyone carries a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device with them (many of us value our privacy and strive to keep what little is left and/or can't justify their expense). I'm tired of people making that assumption!

Posted by:

Cold City
16 Feb 2018

Yes, wow! This might be most great or most awful, scary even. This is even beyond Star Treck the Next Generation...

Posted by:

Gail Baxley
16 Feb 2018


Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Your email had in the link to this post - oops!

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Is there any way I can turn off the ad attack when I'm reading your posting?

It has reached new level of annoyance with each of several (yes, more than one) renewing itself with (yes) annoying regularity.

I'm asking seriously about a workaround as an alternative to not not reading your postings - and that would be a shame.. I mean, what would happen to my 146%

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Here's another cause of distractions, crippling injuries, and deaths while driving motor vehicles. Isn't the body count from so-called "smart phones" high enough already???

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
16 Feb 2018

Casey, I use Adblock+. I put up with them for a long time, but they got more and more annoying, often actually blocking legitimate content.

Posted by:

anne jefferson
16 Feb 2018

I already have a pair of (very necessary) glasses on my face. Have they thought of adding prescription lenses to the technology? or are these only for contact lens wearers? ... and what would the tiny laser do to contacts? I anticipate YEARS more research. :)

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

I'm sure these and much more invasive technology will be developed. When they go on sale the lines will be around the block at 3am.

This is just another nail in the coffin of social etiquette. Trust me, if you and I are talking and I see your eyes flitting left and right and up and down you can be sure I'll know what is going on and will wonder why you're not interested in our discussion. (G)

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Is no one concerned about Big Brother any more? If so, why not?

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Casey? uBlock Origin. An extension for Chrome, Firefox, and (surprise!) Edge. Filters Internet content and webpages load much faster. "Don't Surf Without It! (c)"

Posted by:

16 Feb 2018

Is the processor in Vaunt immune to Spectre and Meltdown?

Posted by:

John O
17 Feb 2018

Is their no peace? Enough on adds. There are many people who can easily know if you are playing a game on your glasses or in their heads. Do you have kids?

Call it the son of Facebook.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2018

Useful during a blind first date to investigate the girl/guy. :):)

Posted by:

17 Feb 2018

YAWN!, just another gadget for the to distract the already limited attention span that unfortunately too many people seem to have

Posted by:

Bernie Crowley
17 Feb 2018

Cleveland Clinic has now supplied all of its physicians assigned to primary care Google Glass: no more typing on the computer during the visit as that is done by another off-site. Patients are asked to sign a permission form if the doctor will NOT be using Google Glass during the visit, suggesting that all of the doctor's attention is now on the patient and not on information entry.

Posted by:

Richard Leskosky
17 Feb 2018

This will be a tremendous boon for quadriplegics.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2018

OMG! Another idiot toy for the addled brained driver who always seems to be behind me on the freeway going 60 mph.

Posted by:

18 Feb 2018

Alright, they asked for it, so here's "Use Case" #47 for Intel... BUT, it's going to require some upgrades, before taking this 4-eyes thingie seriously: First - lose the monochromatic laser-imaging and go all-out for (20th century?) C-O-L-O-R. Second - spring for stereo audio output capabilities. That's it.

You'll have hooked those of us among the great unwashed-masses, who would never bother with smart watches, etc., to access the latest lemur vidz.

Posted by:

20 Feb 2018

I still think they look bulky and have the creepy factor similar as google glass did. If you know "that guy" has smart glasses... it's just creepy, period!

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