Back in October of 2013, I got my own pair of Google Glass in order to cover the technology. The site where I worked at the time paid the $1,500 cost, and I later spent my own $225 to add custom frames that could handle my eyeglass prescription. Given the fate of Glass, we clearly didn’t get a good return on those investments.
Still, there were some things to like about the experience. Glass brought contextual information “closer” to me a relatively non-intrusive way. And that’s exactly what Intel’s smart glasses prototype, known as Vaunt, can do.
When I first read about Vaunt over at The Verge earlier this week, I thought less about the hardware and more about that vision of context and personally important data. That’s because all of our technological advances in mobile computing have impacted this theme.
I look at it this way:
- In the desktop age, the web brought us closer to data on other computers.
- Connected laptops brought us closer to data when away from the desktop.
- Phones put that data in our hand and pocket almost wherever we were.
- Smartwatches let us wear that data, bringing it even closer
- Smart glasses can beam that data — at least in the case of Vaunt — directly on our retinas.
Every step of that progression gets us physically closer to contextual information. I suppose the next, or maybe final, step is a Matrix-like jack that simply ports that data directly into our brains, but who knows? Regardless, this is an important theme as more devices around us create gobs of data. The fewer barriers there are between us and the information we want, the faster we can use or act upon it.
And that’s why I’m excited about Vaunt’s potential, perhaps more so than I was about that of Google Glass.
To contrast the two at a high level, Vaunt isn’t trying to take smartphone functions — such as taking photos and videos, a key reason Glass never had a chance of mainstream success — and move them to your eyes. Instead, the product is singularly focused on very specific information that you will want at a specific time and/or place.
That approach has benefits from a hardware perspective too. t’s why you essentially can’t tell the difference between Vaunt and a traditional pair of glasses. They appear to be standard eyeglass frames to both you and the people around you.
Without the need to include a camera sensor, microphone or speaker, the small chips and display components fit inside the frames. Eliminating the camera also allows for a smaller battery since powering an image sensor typically uses a lot of energy. Using a low-powered, single color laser for the retina projection helps with battery life too when compared to the color display used in Google Glass.
By distilling potential product features into essentially one — simple but very useful information — Vaunt actually solves a problem; something Glass sort of did but other extra features came along for the distracting ride. In fact, I don’t see much of a distraction factor with Vaunt because they don’t look like some technological device nor will people even realize that your retina is receiving information.
Clearly, this doesn’t mean Vaunt will be successful. In fact, Intel isn’t even sure of how Vaunt will be used. That’s why the company will be launching an early access program for developers at some point this year. Intel is just providing the technology while developers will provide the functions that they think people will want.
Think of Vaunt then as a new hardware platform with a very limited feature set. That feature is very powerful though: It takes us one step even closer to the information that personally matters most to us..