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posted by martyb on Thursday December 20 2018, @03:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-see-what-you-did-there dept.

North has acquired the patents and tech behind Intel's Vaunt AR glasses

North, the company behind the Focals AR glasses, has acquired the "technology portfolio" behind another set of AR [Augmented Reality] glasses, the cancelled Intel Vaunt glasses. The company wouldn't disclose the terms of the deal, but Intel Capital is a major investor in North and led its last financing round in 2016. Both Focals and Vaunt had the same basic idea: use a tiny laser embedded in the stem of your glasses to project a reflected image directly into your retina. Unlike other AR and VR [Virtual Reality] efforts, the goal is to create a pair of glasses you'd actually want to wear — something that looks relatively normal and doesn't weigh too much.

[...] Focals have the same basic idea as Vaunt but are actually set to ship to consumers fairly soon. The Canadian company already has a couple of stores where you can select the right style of glasses. But more importantly, you need to get them fitted, North says, because aligning the projector so you can see the image requires that the glasses be adjusted for your face.

[...] North CEO and co-founder Stephen Lake tells me that his company is acquiring 230 patents or applications along with some "technology and assets," which will mean the company should have over 650 patents by the end of the year.

[...] In some ways, North's Focals are a little more advanced than the Intel Vaunt prototypes I tried back in February. The image it displays is slightly larger and displays in full color instead of Vaunt's red monochrome. But Intel had some tech that North wanted, Lake tells me that the Vaunt team "did a lot of work in MEMs technology and the optics related to that." More specifically, Intel seems to have done a lot of work to miniaturize the display system.

Lake says that North is acquiring the patents for future versions of Focals and not to go on a lawsuit spree. "It's really about a defensive position," he says. Intel also had done work related to the core interface of using AR glasses. The patents North is acquiring cover "everything from new techniques, user interfaces, to ways to interact with the glasses."

Also at TechCrunch.

Previously: Intel Unveils "Vaunt" Smartglasses
Intel Abandons Vaunt AR (Augmented Reality) Smartglasses

Original Submission

Related Stories

Intel Unveils "Vaunt" Smartglasses 33 comments

Intel is launching plain-looking smartglasses that beam a monochrome red image directly into your retina using a laser. There are no cameras on the device:

Intel has launched an impressively light, regular-looking set of smart glasses called Vaunt, confirming rumors from Bloomberg and others. Seen by The Verge, they have plastic frames and weigh under 50 grams, a bit more than regular eyeglasses but much less than Google Glass, for example. The electronics are crammed into the stems and control a very low-powered, class one laser that shines a red, monochrome 400 x 150 pixel image into your eye. Critically, the glasses contain no camera, eliminating the "big brother" vibe from Glass and other smart glasses.

Original Submission

Intel Abandons Vaunt AR (Augmented Reality) Smartglasses 12 comments

Intel will shut down its New Devices Group, spelling an end to the company's Vaunt smartglasses project:

When Intel showed off its Vaunt smart glasses (aka "Superlight" internally) back in February, we had high hopes for a new wave of wearable tech that wouldn't turn us into Borgs. Alas, according to The Information's source, word has it that the chip maker is closing the group responsible for wearable devices which, sadly, included the Vaunt. This was later confirmed by Intel in a statement, which hinted at a lack of investment due to "market dynamics." Indeed, Bloomberg had earlier reported that Intel was looking to sell a majority stake in this division, which had about 200 employees and was valued at $350 million.

To avoid the awkwardness that doomed the Google Glass, Intel took the subtle approach by cramming a retinal laser projector -- along with all the other electronic bits, somehow -- into the Vaunt's ordinary-looking spectacle frame; plus there was no camera on it. The low-power projector would beam a red, monochrome 400 x 150 pixel image into the lower right corner of one's visual field, thus eliminating the need of a protruding display medium.

Vaunt is what you get when your committee is too scared of the "Glasshole" fiasco to make a useful product. People on camera could easily identify Google Glass because of its protruding head-mounted display and hardware, as well as the camera indicator light. Build the SoC and any flat buttons directly into a black frame, put small camera lenses at the hinges and/or center, use retinal laser projection or make the lenses into full field of view displays, and remove the indicator light. Then the wearer doesn't have a "Glasshole" problem (but those being viewed might still end up with a "Glasshole.")

Also at The Verge, ZDNet, and AppleInsider.

Previously: Intel Unveils "Vaunt" Smartglasses

Original Submission

"North Focals" $1000 Smartglasses Reviewed 24 comments

North Focals Review: Stealthy, Stylish Smart Glasses

Focals are currently only available after two in-person fittings (for more on North's detailed fitting process, see our first hands-on with Focals) in their Brooklyn, New York or Toronto, Canada stores. The trip is tempting as Focals cross a huge smart glasses barrier by offering functionality in a form that stands a good (but not perfect) chance of passing for regular glasses. However, while we enjoy apps like Amazon Alexa and Weather, more apps and better image quality would make the $999 / $1,200 CAD price tag (with or without prescription lenses) more forgivable.

Focals use a Qualcomm APQ8009w system-on-a-chip (SoC), which runs on four Arm Cortex A7 CPU cores at a clock speed of up to 1.09GHz. The SoC is marketed for smartwatches, with features like Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

[...] The left arm of my review sample is bare black on the outside, while the inside subtly reads "Focals by NORTH" near the temple and "CLASS 1 LASER PRODUCT" near the tip. The right arm is also bare on the outside. The inside, however, holds the holographic display projector, which uses a display technology called retinal projection to project photons, or light, or raster graphics, onto the retina. When the projector is activated, it's not visible from the outside. It projects images onto the right eye only. This advanced retina display also calls for precise measurements in the aforementioned fitting process.

On the bottom of the right arm is a small square area for connecting the charger, a small speaker/microphone and the power button.

Google Acquires Smart Glasses Maker North 16 comments

Google Glass 3.0? Google acquires smart glasses maker North

Google Hardware's latest acquisition is North, a wearables computing company that most recently was making smart glasses that seemed like a successor to Google Glass. Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh announced the purchase on Google's blog, saying, "North's technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future."

North developed and released a pair of smart glasses called "Focals," which came the closest we've seen so far to smart glasses that looked like normal glasses. First, the company didn't neglect the "glasses" part of "smart glasses" and provided the frames in a range of styles, sizes, and colors, with support for prescription lenses. The technology was noticeably less invasive, too. Google Glass's display surface was a transparent block distractingly placed in front of the users' face, but Focal's display surface was the glasses' lens itself. A laser projector poked out from the thicker-than-normal temple arms and fired into the lens, which has a special coating, allowing the projection to reflect light into the eye.

[...] Google's smart glasses contribution was, of course, the infamous Google Glass, which launched in 2012 and basically shut down as a consumer product about two years later. (North CEO Stephen Lake actually called Google Glass "a massive failure" in a 2019 tech talk. Awkward!) Most people would think of the product as dead, but Google quietly pivoted Glass to be an enterprise product for assembly-line workers, mechanics, doctors, and other professions that might benefit from hands-free computing. New Glass hardware came out as recently as 2019, with the "Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2," which featured a modern 10nm Qualcomm SoC. With Apple reportedly building a set of smart glasses, the consumer market will probably heat up again soon.

It's back.

Also at BBC.

Previously: Google Glass 'Enterprise Edition': Foldable, More Rugged and Water-Resistant
Intel Abandons Vaunt AR (Augmented Reality) Smartglasses
Intel's Vaunt Augmented Reality Smartglasses Concept Lives on at Canadian Company North
"North Focals" $1000 Smartglasses Reviewed

Related: Apple Glasses Leaks and Rumors: Here's Everything We Expect to See

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday December 20 2018, @04:50PM (1 child)

    by Freeman (732) on Thursday December 20 2018, @04:50PM (#776842) Journal

    The two technologies share enough challenges that a win for AR is a win for VR in my book. Hopefully, they come up with something great and are able to get it to a large market.

    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Friday December 21 2018, @01:43AM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday December 21 2018, @01:43AM (#777045) Journal

      I think it would be nice to see them combined into a single system. Flat in a glasses form factor [], not a boxy headset. Ability to switch between AR and VR modes. Foveated rendering. The CPU, GPU, NPU, etc. on the SoC should use a new type of transistor [] that can be arranged into vertical layers on a monolithic IC. With any luck, we could see 1 petaflops of GPU performance with less than a Watt of power draw, and real-time raytracing.

      Camera(s) should be built into the frame. The ability to record and livestream VR180 video [] would be ideal.

      Based on my extensive calculations [], the resolution target should be roughly 32K over the entire 360° sphere, or about 16K resolution for a 220º horizontal, 150º vertical field of view. This could actually be the easy part. []

      That full list of stuff could be achievable within 15 years. The hardest part will probably be the super 3D SoC since there doesn't appear to be any great effort to change the way we do things within the next 10 years. We are on course to see "5nm" and "3nm", and possibly a couple more nodes. But if something like the metal-based field emission air channel transistor pans out, I believe the industry could switch to it within 5 years if they were forced to by competition. It's just so much better that they will all have to jump on the bandwagon and license it if one company pursues it.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []