Google Buys North Smart Glasses, Closes Down Product

EnterpriseInnovationMerger and acquisitionWearable Tech
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Canadian smart glasses maker North acquired by Google, which then immediately kills the next version of its wearable device

Alphabet’s Google division has purchased Canadian smart glasses startup North, for an undisclosed sum of money.

Th acquisition was confirmed by North (formerly Thalmic Labs) in an official blog post, which revealed that the North staff will be staying in Kitchener-Waterloo area of Canada.

North (or Thalmic Labs) was founded back in 2012 and had received funding from Intel back in 2013. It was best known for MYO, an armband that enabled users to control objects through hand gestures.

Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition 2. Image credit: Google

North acquisition

However the company subsequently shifted focus to Focals, its “everyday smart glasses with direct retinal projection and prescription compatibility.”

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to join Google, and to take an exciting next step towards the future we’ve been focused on for the past eight years,” wrote North co-founders Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant in the blog.

Although the purchase price was not revealed, a Globe and Mail newspaper report stated the purchase price was around $180 million (£145 million).

And it seems that the Google acquisition means the ending of its smart glasses foray.

North was known for selling consumers smart glasses called Focals 1.0, which typically retailed for nearly £500. In December last year North announced it would soon launch a 2.0 version of the product, called Focals 2.0.

But Focals 2.0 will no longer arrive.

“Lastly is our appreciation for Focals 1.0 customers who share our vision of everyday smart glasses,” the co-founders wrote in the blog. “We are winding down Focals 1.0 and we will not be shipping Focals 2.0, but we hope you will continue the journey with us as we start this next chapter.”

Smart glasses

So is Google plotting a return to the consumer smart glasses market?

Well it seems that the acquisition will give Google access to North’s talent and tech, that could be integrated into Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition 2, which launched in May 2019.

Google it should be remembered, had stopped production of its smart glasses for the consumer sector in 2015.

Google took the decision after a rather lacklustre reception to the comical appearance of the wearable device, coupled with the privacy issues the smart glasses threw up.

Matters were also not helped by the high purchase price of Google Glass (£1000 back in 2014).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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