Smart glasses have long been promised as the smartphone 2.0. But, after failed experiments like the infamous Google Glass, are they really ready for the mainstream market?

Last April, Intel announced the closure of the New Devices Group (NDG), the division behind the development of its smart glasses project, the Vaunt.

While Google Glass might have found a second life by focussing on the workplace with the new Enterprise Edition, Intel decided to put the kibosh on the project for good.

To many, this decision was a bit of a shock. Only a couple of months before, Intel unveiled a prototype of its Augmented Reality glasses that looked promising.

The Vaunt took away everything people hated about Google Glasses and ultimately led to its quick and spectacular demise.

Looking like ordinary eyeglasses, the Vaunt didn’t have a camera and the glasses didn’t function as a display but as projectors that stream data right onto the user’s eyes.

In a statement, Intel hinted that the technology simply wasn’t mature enough to take out to the market as a product.

No one had the chance to try out Intel’s Vaunt as a finished product, but now, researchers have come up with a new concept for AR glasses that, on paper, sound a lot like Intel’s.

New Approach to See-Through AR Glasses

Researchers at the Laboratoire d’électronique des technologies de l’information (LETI), in Grenoble (France) said they developed a “fundamentally new approach” for a retinal projection display, or augmented reality glasses.

“Rather than starting with a display technology and trying to make it as small as possible, we started with the idea that smart glasses should look and feel like normal glasses,” said Christopher Martinez who led the team. “Developing our concept required a great deal of imagination because we eliminated the bulky optical components typically required and instead use the eye itself to form the image.”

Instead of displaying images on the surface of the glasses for the user to see, the new design allows the glasses to capture information in the form of photons and project them onto the retina.

Details of the novel approach can be found in a paper published in The Optical Society’s journal, Optica.

The focus of the LETI team was to design holographic glasses that are indistinguishable from regular glasses while also functioning as a retinal projector that is efficient and practical enough to use.

As is their concept now, these AR glasses can only project text or icons and don’t allow for video projection.

Although AR is the main target for LETI researchers with their retinal projector, the team think their creation could be useful for people with vision problems. The glasses can work as corrective lenses but have the added benefit of working the correction into the display so that the user can read text information.

After running an optical simulation that validated their concept, LETI researchers intend to make the components of the retinal projector and test them individually, then create a working prototype.

Could Intel Vaunt benefit from this novel approach to AR glasses?

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