Intel is planning to start offering consumer smart glasses later this year by selling a majority stake in an augmented reality business. The chip maker is valuing the new division at as much as $350 million, which has been working on a Bluetooth-based smart glasses that connect with a mobile device.
According to Bloomberg, the smart glasses will be able to display contextual information into the wearer’s field of view. The wearable device is expected to use a laser-based projector and will reflect off the lens and onto the retina. People familiar with the development told Bloomberg that Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc will manufacture the product under contract for Intel.
The smart glasses technology is internally being called as Superlite but the spin off business is likely to be called as Vaunt. Augmented Reality in the form of wearable devices is still a nascent market with Google being the first to test the waters with its Google Glass and Microsoft following with its mixed reality device called HoloLens. Both Microsoft and Google are currently focusing on enterprise segment for their AR glasses.
Intel has also tried its hands on the wearable technology but pared back efforts after failing to make progress in the market. The company shuttered the Recon augmented reality goggles business it acquired in 2015 and the report says that some former members of the Recon team will part of the new division put up for sale.
Intel is looking at investors who can contribute to the business with strong sales channels, industry or design expertise rather than ones with financial backing. The plan to spin off a separate AR business is an effort by CEO Brian Krzanich to stay less reliant on its chip business for future growth and revenue.
Apple is currently the leader in AR space with the launch of ARKit available on 1.3 billion active iOS devices and the company is widely anticipated to launch a consumer spectacles based on the platform sometime early next year. Others working on wearables include Magic Leap, which recently showed its eyeglasses capable of augmenting virtual one onto a real space.
Gartner expects the wearable space to be dominated by smartwatches and fitness trackers for now but the head-mounted glasses will catch up in the next few years. The segment will be a battleground for consumer technology companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and even Intel.