Intel appears to be throwing in the towel on its wearables and augmented reality ambitions. The chip giant will shut down its new devices group, according to a report April 18 by The Information. The division, formed in 2013, made fitness trackers and smart glasses.
The division had reportedly been quietly working on the Vaunt smart glasses, which it planned to offer to developers in an early access program later this year. The normal-looking glasses were said to combine a very low-power red laser and a holographic reflector to beam simple images directly onto a user’s retina.
Market research firm IDC says we’ll globally be spending $20 billion a year on AR and VR technologies by 2021, but drumming up consumer interest for smart glasses has proved tricky. Google Glass, the tech giant’s bold vision of headsets, wasn’t as futuristic as it seemed back in 2013. It was more head-mounted display than augmented reality—and its design as a personal device put many people off. With a hardware revamp last year, the headset is now targeted as a wearable for business use.
Snapchat’s Spectacles led to long lines at pop-up vending machines when the camera-enabled sunglasses launched in 2016, but after the initial hype, it looked like only about 150,000 pairs had sold (at $130 each), potentially leaving many units languishing in warehouses.
Intel, which reportedly axed its wearables division last July, had had its eye on the smart eyewear market for years. The company invested in smart eyewear maker Recon and eventually purchased that company in 2015.