Alphabet Inc’s Google acquired smart glass startup North to develop and support ambient computing. The companies announced that North’s “technical expertise” will help Google invest in “its hardware efforts and ambient computing future.”
Although the commercial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Globe and Mail have recently reported that a 180$ million deal was imminent.
North – The Augmented Reality Start-up
North, a startup based in Kitchener, Ontario started developing a device in 2012 that responds to gestures and “neuro-muscular impulses” subsequently switching to Focals glasses that pick up signals through signals. These glasses feature a tiny laser in the arm that projects images in front of the user’s eyes. They connect to the user’s phone via Bluetooth to display notifications, provide directions, and book an Uber.
North launched the Focals 1.0 in January 2019 but within a month its prices were dropped to $599.99, half of the original price. The company announced last December that they have stopped making the original version, to shift to a second-generation pair. With the acquisition, the startup announced that they no longer have plans to release the second-generation device.
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The company laid off 150 employees last year owing to the poor sale of Focals. Still, the company plans to stay in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada, after the acquisition and Google also announced that it is committed to growing the global tech community in North’s hometown.
Why Focals make a better smart glass than Google Glass?
Alphabet Inc’s Google has been trying to make a mark in this smart glass technology for quite some time but has had limited commercial success. The company had launched Google Glass internet-connected eyewear in 2013 but it did not click well with the consumers and lives on as an enterprise offering.
Google’s glasses were bulky and with an inbuilt camera, it gave off the perception of being intrusive. Many businesses like bars and restaurants prohibited their use to protect the privacy of their patrons.
Focals by North is far more discrete and stylish. The glasses connected to mobile via Bluetooth and functioned as a controller. Also, the Focals were operated by a mini-joystick that could be discretely operated from a jacket pocket.
The Bottom Line
The North acquisition shows that Google is not giving up on this technology yet and it will continue to showcase its vision of artificial intelligence and augmented reality technology taking center field where all devices work together and the technology fades in the background.