Focals smart glasses intend to succeed where Google and Intel failed

Focals Smart Glasses - North

A Canadian company is aiming to provide people with the smart glasses experience they actually want.

North, an Ontario-based company previously called Thalmic Labs, is launching its Amazon-backed Focals smart glasses. The goal of this wearable technology is to provide mobile users with an intuitive way to check notifications, check the weather, read and respond to text messages, plan a commute with Uber, speak with Alexa and more. The major difference between Focals and previous smart glasses models, is that North’s product is stylish, practical and designed for everyday wear.

Focals are stylish and can be fitted with prescription lenses.

Unlike Google Glass, which was mocked for its awkward and aesthetically unappealing design, Focals smart glasses have been designed to look like a pair of fashionable eye glasses. In fact, you can even have them equipped with either clear or prescription lenses, making them both functional and practical.

The glasses, designed for everyday wear, have a hidden holographic display integrated into them. When turned on, the digital display floats about an arm’s-length in front of the user, just below their line of sight. The tech works by projecting tiny rays of light on the user’s eye. The interface is very minimal, displaying only small blips of text. Essentially, with Focals, you can expect to get the same kind of information you’d get from an Apple Watch.

Focals smart glasses requires a small ring-shaped controller to work.

Focals contains a smartphone processor, a Bluetooth connectivity compatible with both iOS and Android phones, and is integrated with Amazon Alexa. That said, it is not equipped with a camera and its microphone is only listening when activated, according to North.

The tech is not activated by voice or through touch. In order for the tech in these glasses to function, the user needs a ring-like controller that has a tiny joystick with a five-way interface. The holographic display is off most of the time and only comes alive when needed, so users are not constantly bombarded with notifications or other information.

“We want to minimize screen time, not maximize it,” Stephen Lake, Co-founder and CEO of North told CNBC in an interview. “Every interaction we built, we design it to be the fastest way to get it done and to get you back to the world. It’s really about staying present in the world while still maintaining the pieces that we value about the connections and the information we need in the moment.”

Focals Smart Glasses - NorthFocals smart glasses carry a price tag of $1,000 and the first units are expected to ship this year. Due to customer measurements being required, currently, the only way to purchase this wearable tech is to visit one of North’s soon-to-be-open stores in Brooklyn and Toronto.

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