AR-powered smart glasses are one of those technologies that sound and look great on Tony Stark but are a far cry from being an actual profitable product, be it in retail or even in industrial applications. Smart glasses are hard to get right, both in actual implementation but also in marketing. Even Google practically gave up on its Google Glass but now parent company Alphabet may be trying to take another stab at it by buying North, maker of wearables including the Focals smart glasses.
Focals by North wasn’t actually the company’s product nor was North its first name. First known as Thalmic Labs, the Canadian startup’s first claim to fame was the Myo armband that promised Jedi-like powers by letting you control phones and computers using gestures. Two years ago it renamed itself as North and made a big splash with Focals, one of the few actually impressive implementations of the smart glass dream.
As many companies would tell you, however, popularity doesn’t always translate to profitability. Although less expensive than Google Glass, Focals still didn’t make the company any money. In fact, North’s finances revealed it was actually bleeding.
Sources now claim that North is in the last stage of selling itself to Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Two failures don’t exactly make a success but the times have changed since Google Glass disappeared behind industrial doors. More importantly, Apple is reportedly close to coming out with its own AR smart glasses.
That doesn’t mean that smart glasses will suddenly become a huge hit but Apple’s involvement could at least give the industry some validation. Alphabet may be stocking up on technologies, patents, and expertise to pick up the fight once more, hopefully to a more receptive market willing to put money to make those sci-fi dreams not only come true but also stay for long.