Google Closes Down North Smart Glasses

EnterpriseInnovationMerger and acquisitionWearable Tech

Weeks after Google purchased Canadian smart glass provider North, customers are warned their devices will stop working this week

Google is to close down North, just weeks after it had purchased the Canadian smart glasses maker.

At the end of June, North (formerly Thalmic Labs) confirmed it had been purchased for an unconfirmed sum (reported to be £145m), by Alphabet’s Google division.

North has been 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.

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

Focals shutdown

But the Google acquisition brought the confirmation that the upcoming Focals 2.0 would not be shipping to customers.

And now in a statement on its website, North has confirmed that its existing Focals glasses 1.0 will cease functioning on Friday.

“As we announced in our blog, we’ve made the difficult decision to wind down Focals,” the firm stated. “We will also be issuing a full refund for all paid Focals orders.”

“On July 31st, 2020, you won’t be able to connect or use Focals or access your North account,” it said. “The Focals app will also be removed from the Google Play and Apple App Store.”

North said that Focals smart glasses and its services are being discontinued and will no longer be available after 31 July.

Customers will not be able to connect their glasses through the app or use any features, abilities, or experiments from their glasses.

The firm said that full refunds will be given for all paid Focals orders starting 30 June, using the original payment method.

“If we are unable to process your refund, we will reach out to you to collect more information,” it said. “Once processed, you should see the refunded amount back in your account within a few business days.

Established player

North (or Thalmic Labs) was founded back in 2012 and had received funding from Intel back in 2013.

The firm was best known for MYO, an armband that enabled users to control objects through hand gestures.

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

Despite Google’s acquisition and the winding down of Focals wearables, North staff are expected to remain in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Canada, operating as Google staffers.

Smart glasses

So does that mean Google is going to use the North to help it return to the consumer smart glasses market?

Well it is possible that North’s talent and tech 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 way back in 2015.

google glass wearer at the intern premiere © Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

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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