Google officially acquires North, makers of the Focals augmented reality glasses
Most of us remember Google’s brief stint with consumer augmented reality smart glasses several years ago. That product, called the Google Glass, included an optical head-mounted display that was mounted to a glass frame. While it was definitely futuristic, it was never a product that saw mass consumer acceptance. An enterprise version is still around to this day, with the latest version being released in 2019. While Google doesn’t have more Glass-specific news to share today, they did make an announcement that will surely affect the company’s future in AR smart glasses. Google has announced today that they’ve acquired North, a Canadian tech company that made the “Focals” augmented reality smart glasses, for an undisclosed sum.
North will be contributing to Google’s tech in the AR space by joining the latter’s team in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. In the press release, Google says that the North team will continue to work on “ambient computing” technologies under Google. Following the acquisition, we could see Google use North’s tech for either improving the current Google Glass design or for making similar products. North’s Focals product provided a friendly take on smart glasses, more closely resembling regular glasses (in contrast to Google Glass) with a transparent display mounted on one of the frames to show things like messages and navigation directions. However, its $600 starting price was quite expensive, putting the smart glasses out of reach for the average consumer.
The company was preparing a successor to the first-generation Focals smart glasses, dubbed Focals 2.0, which has now been shelved as part of Google’s acquisition. The Focals app and account backend will cease functioning after July 31st, 2020, though customer support for the product will continue through to the end of 2020.
Google has said that buyers of the Focals will be fully refunded, which is a move that is sure to satisfy some consumers unhappy with this news. After all, the Focals are actual glasses, so it’s not like they can just be thrown away. Current owners of Focals may feel disappointed that the second-generation product won’t be shipping, but we’re excited to see the results of the company’s acquisition by Google.
Featured image credits: North