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Luxottica signs deal with Intel to develop hi-tech glasses

An employee walks inside the Intel microprocessor assembly plant in Heredia

Italy’s Luxottica is joining forces with U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp to develop glasses that combine its top fashion brands with technology that could allow wearers to access information about their health or location.

The world’s biggest eyewear maker said on Wednesday the frames developed with Intel would serve very specific purposes, and would not compete with its existing deal to manufacture and distribute Google Inc’s Internet-connected glasses.

Intel is also involved in the Google Glass project as its chips will replace components from Texas Instruments in the new version of the “smart” spectacles, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week.

“We’ve started to work on sensors which can detect, say, temperature or location, ” Luxottica Chief Executive Massimo Vian told Reuters, declining to give further details about the deal with Intel.

“They provide their chips, we our brands, ” he added.

Luxottica’s brands include Ray Ban, Oakley and Persol, while it has licenses to use brands including Chanel and Tiffany.

Intel, which was late to the smartphone and tablet industries, is striving to be at the forefront of future trends in mobile computing and expand into new markets, including smart watches and other Internet-connected “wearables”.

Earlier this year, it teamed up with watch retailer Fossil Group and fashion brand Opening Ceremony to develop wearable devices such as fashion bracelets with communications features and wireless charging.

Intel and Luxottica gave no financial details about their agreement, which will involve people from both companies working together in joint research and development teams. The first glasses are expected to be launched in 2015.

Morgan Stanley analysts estimated last month that shipments of wearable devices would grow to 248 million units in 2017 from 6 million in 2013, more than double industry estimates.

Vian, who took over as CEO in October after a management shake-up triggered by the exit of two top executives in as many months, said the Milan-based group had started looking at possible wearable technology ventures about 18 months ago.

“Glasses with electronic components will feature in the future of the eyewear world, ” he said.

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