Following a lack of interest from investors, Intel’s Vaunt smart glasses have been shelved. The move appears to signal the end of Intel’s foray into wearables and augmented reality, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on research and acquisitions.
CEO Brian Krzanich has pushed the chip giant far beyond its core business since his promotion in 2013. Autonomous vehicles, 5G, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing have all been explored, with varying degrees of success.
The end of the new devices group
One of Intel’s biggest new ventures, after Krzanich took the helm, was into the world of wearable technology. Here the focus was largely on the consumer market, far from the company’s usual territory. This shift was formalised with the formation of the New Devices Group in 2013.
Heavy investment and a number of acquisitions followed, strengthening Intel’s foothold in the market. Fitness watch company Basis Science and athletic wearable startup Recon Instruments were both brought onboard. There were also high-profile partnerships with upscale brands, including sunglasses giant Oakley and watchmaker Tag Heuer.
Not alone in the wearables struggle
Yet, so far, the wearables market has failed to reach the heights that many had hoped for. Sales of Intel’s first wearable products – joint ventures with New Balance, Tag Heuer, and Oakley – were, sadly, not exceptions.
By the summer of 2017, it was clear that Intel wasn’t competing with the likes of Apple and Fitbit in the consumer wearables space. And so the company shifted its attention and resources from conventional wearables to something that could be combined with augmented reality.
This last push centred on Intel’s smart glasses project, Vaunt – a technology with both commercial and consumer applications, which was featured by Internet of Business back in February.
The end of Vaunt?
Although Intel’s Vaunt glasses promised convenience beyond that offered by smart watches and mobile phones, their obvious potential was apparently not enough to secure outside investment.
Bloomberg reported that Intel valued its smart glasses division at $350 million and was looking for an external investor to help take the project forward. However, it would appear that there were no takers, and Intel has confirmed that the New Devices Group will now be closing its doors for good.
In a statement, the company said that it’s “continuously working on new technologies and experiences. Not all of these develop into a product we choose to take to market”.
A spokesperson added:
Intel will continue 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.
Internet of Business says
The move away from wearables and augmented reality is likely to be more damaging from a PR standpoint than from a financial one. Bowing out of the space does no favours to Intel’s aim to be perceived as a technology company with one foot in the future, rather than the grave.
Intel reported annual revenues of $62.8 billion last year – a record high. The majority of that was from sales of its personal computer processors, with around $19 billion coming from the company’s data centre business. However, it will be keen to diversify as competition from ARM and Nvidia is growing, Apple is developing its own chips, and AMD’s processors have returned to form.
Vaunt could make a comeback (or be reborn in a different guise) once supporting technologies are sufficiently advanced and smart glasses have become more widely accepted. The technology – and its potential to end the ‘glassholes’ stigma – is surely too promising to vanish completely.