Intel has confirmed that it plans to shut down the New Devices Group (NDG) and cease development on the Vaunt smart glasses project we revealed earlier this year. The story was first reported this evening by The Information, which also notes that the closure will probably result in “some layoffs” from the team that was reportedly around 200 people.
Here’s Intel’s statement:
Intel is continuously working on new technologies and experiences. Not all of these develop into a product we choose to take to market. The Superlight [the codename for Vaunt] project is a great example where Intel developed truly differentiated, consumer augmented reality glasses. 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.
It was always unclear precisely how Intel intended to bring the Vaunt glasses to market, though sources indicated that Intel wanted to find a partner with retail expertise to partner with. Jerry Bautista, the lead for Vaunt, told me back in December that Intel was “working with key ecosystem hardware providers — whether they’re frames or lenses and things like that. Because we believe there’s a whole channel to people who wear glasses that’s already there.”
Intel has had a difficult time creating consumer products directly. It’s had partnerships with companies like Oakley and Tag Heuer in the wearables space, but neither found mass-market success. If the company wasn’t able to successfully find a similar partner to handle Vaunt, it’s not exactly a surprise that it chose not to try to bring them to market directly. That’s not Intel’s game — and CEO Brian Krzanich likely has other concerns like the ongoing worries about Spectre and Apple’s rumored plans to ditch its chips altogether.
Still, it’s disappointing to think that Vaunt won’t get a chance to finish development. Having tried the basic prototype, I can say that having a heads-up display that’s only there when you want to see it is a genuinely fascinating technology. It was a take on augmented reality that didn’t try to give you magical 3D objects, but instead basic contextual information. Perhaps another company will find a way to make it real. Until then, here’s our first (and, apparently, last) look at the glasses.