North now shipping Focals smart glasses

FocalsbyNorth

Kitchener-based North has officially started shipping its augmented reality Focals glasses.

North currently has stores in Toronto and Brooklyn, where customers head in for custom fittings of their smart glasses before they ship. The company also announced it will launch mobile pop-up stores in other major cities across North America, starting in April. According to the Daily Mail, the startup said it expects to reveal the specific cities soon, along with more details about the pop-ups.

The $1,299 Focals, which initially debuted in October, are designed with a fashion-first approach, featuring eye-tracking software, microphones, and hologram technology, projecting digital images in front of the wearer’s eye, without displaying the images to others. The glasses come in two styles, three colours, and each pair includes attachable sunglass lenses in black or copper for outdoor use.

“Last year we approached the smart glasses category with an entirely new concept, smart glasses that look awesome,” Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of North, said in a statement. “Today is a big day for us as we put the first Focals in the hands of customers.”

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Wearers can use the glasses for text messaging, checking calendars, turn-by-turn navigation, weather, and Amazon Alexa. With the Alexa integration, users can control their smart appliances or use Alexa commands if they want to go hands-free. Each pair has enough battery to last 18 hours, North told the Verge, and can be recharged through the companion glasses case.

The device also comes with the Loop feature. Loop is worn like a ring, with a joystick mechanism that allows users to click through notifications and prompts on Focals’ holographic display. Users press down on Loop’s tool to scroll left or right through notifications. When the joystick is pressed down, the device will raise more details about a specific notification.

According to a Verge report North acquired the patents and technology for its AR Intel Vaunt glasses in December. BetaKit first reported that North, then called Thalmic Labs, had been issued multiple patents pertaining to a wearable device utilizing holographic technology. BetaKit then provided additional details on the product, including the need for users to have the device fitted to their face, and North’s plans to operate physical retail outlets to facilitate this process. The Focals smart glasses were also showcased this month at CES 2019.

In November, the Canadian government decided to invest $24 million into North after the announcement that it is opening showrooms for its smart glasses in Toronto and New York.

Images courtesy North.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast