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Intel Buys Smart Eyewear Maker Composyt

The acquisition adds to the chip maker's growing efforts to become a formidable player in the nascent wearable computing market.

Intel logo

Intel continues to invest in wearable technology and the Internet of things, most recently with the acquisition of small Swiss startup Composyt Light Labs, which is developing connected eyewear.

The world's largest chip maker bought the small company, a spinoff of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, known by the acronym EPFL, at the end of 2014, but made the deal public Jan. 20. No financial details were released.

The acquisition is only the latest push by Intel into the booming wearable device market, which IDC analysts last year said will grow from more than 19 million units shipped in 2014 to 111.9 million units in 2018. It's one of the new markets that Intel is aggressively moving into, part of CEO Brian Krzanich's promise that the chip maker will not miss out on growth areas the way it did with the mobile device space.

Over the past year, Intel has partnered with a broad array of companies—from Fossil and Luxottica Group to Opening Ceremonies and SMS Audio—to develop wearable devices powered by its silicon. In addition, the company last year bought smart band maker Basis. Intel also has developed an array of development platforms for wearable technology—most recently introducing the button-sized Curie compute module at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show—and earlier this month announced it was investing $24.8 million in Vuzix, which makes enterprise-grade smart glasses.

The acquisition of Composyt fits in with Intel's efforts. Composyt has been working with another EPFL company—Lemoptix, which is developing a laser microprojection technology—to develop a product that can be used with any eyewear. The ultra-miniature projector technology will be able to superimpose information on any glasses.

The two companies at the Augmented World Expo Conference in May 2014 showed off a prototype of smart glasses that included direct retina projection and a holographic combiner, according to Lemoptix officials. In a news article in September 2014 on the French site Le Temps, Composyt co-founder Mickael Guillaumee listed several use cases for the connected glasses, including having emails or arrows for a route being displayed. In addition, drivers could use the augmented reality in training, and applications could be used to help people with diseases like macular degeneration that impair eyesight, he said.

News of Intel's acquisition comes just days after Google announced it was stopping sales of its high-profile Google Glass smart eyewear.