Smart glasses-maker North has confirmed it is being acquired by Google, and it’s bad news for anybody looking forward to the company’s second-generation Focals 2.0 – or who currently uses the Focals 1.0. The deal – chatter of which leaked recently – will see North’s team join Google’s work on its hardware and “ambient computing” platforms.
North began life as Thalmic Labs, and its first product was a very different wearable. The Myo smart band was worn on the arm, and could track movements and translate them into control for your smartphone and other devices.
After that came Focals. A pair of smart glasses that looked much like a regular pair of prescription eyewear, they projected information from a connected Android or iOS device into the right lens. That could include navigation instructions, notifications of calls and messages, and more.
Focals 2.0 was to deliver more of the same, but in a smaller and lighter form factor. Though the hardware was never officially unveiled, the smart glasses promised a bigger display along with crisper graphics. There was also the hint of an integrated camera.
Despite efforts to bring Focals’ pricing down, though, the fledgling smart glasses market didn’t balloon in time for North to make a solid sales success. Now, the company is selling up to Google, and will join its team in Kitchener-Waterloo in Canada.
Exactly what they’ll be working with Google on remains to be seen. What we do know, though, is that Focals 2.0 will no longer be launched: the project has been canceled. Worse still, those who have a Focals 1.0 headset will discover they’re being disabled from the end of July.
“On July 31st, 2020, you won’t be able to connect or use Focals or access your North account,” the company comfirms. “The Focals app will also be removed from the Google Play and Apple App Store.”
North will be refunding all Focals 1.0 buyers automatically, starting from today. It’ll use the original payment method, the company says; if that can’t be done, North will be reaching out to individual owners to arrange the refund.
As for deleting data that North may have in a Focals account, that can be done through the North app. Alternatively, owners can contact North to have them to it manually.
It’s a disappointing end for what was promising hardware, albeit with first-generation hiccups and issues. Focals was often described as offering the functionality that Google Glass once aspired to, without the likelihood of public shaming for wearing. The reality, though, is that it seems we’ll have to wait a little longer before we find smart glasses ready for the mass-market.