This story was updated on June 29, 2020 at 9:39 AM PDTon, June 30, 2020, 15:24 pm, originally published on June 29, 2020.
Google acquired smart eyewear manufacturer North Inc. and is said to be worth $180 million. The acquisition strengthens its commitment to proprietary hardware, wearables, and “ambient computing.” Google has had limited success with its own “Google Glass” smart glass, but the project continues. This new purchase could complement Google’s acquisition of Fitbit.
In case you’re not sure, North is a Canadian-based company that optionally manufactures smart glasses that project images onto prescription lenses. The company previously opened a showroom in Brooklyn, New York in late 2018. Obviously, these glasses don’t have a touch screen. North’s first generation smart glasses used a built-in mic and ring (eg touch controls to wear). (For commands) You can display notifications and messages upon arrival, or assist with navigation. For more information, watch the video review of Mr Mobile’s first generation products.
A virtual demo of North’s first “Focals”.
Details of the acquisition originally leaked from the last weak courtesy of The Globe and Mail. The company hasn’t confirmed all the details (final price tag, etc.), but Google today confirmed the acquisition further in a blog post announced by Rick Osterlow, senior vice president of devices and services. Described to join the Kitchener Waterloo team in Canada. North also confirmed the acquisition in its blog post, explaining that it plans to discontinue the existing product and that the previously planned future version will not be realized.
North previously reinforced Intel’s smart glasses patent in 2018, strengthening its portfolio. The company is also working on a “neuromuscular” control system called Myo, and such details may have been more in the spotlight than Google’s efforts for its pedestrian smart glasses.
The acquisition occurs as a problem North faced when companies began to pile up. It failed to materialize the expected second-generation product and laid off about 500 employees last year. Globe and Mail said the company may not be selling Focal smart glasses “in excess of 1,000 pairs” and is almost out of stock.
North reportedly started looking for buyers earlier this year, which has attracted Google’s interest.
How Google will use the acquisition is yet to be revealed. As already mentioned, North’s portfolio is a little wider than just smart glasses, but now that Google Glass has been used by businesses, Google has valued its space alone to strengthen its own patents and efforts. You might think that there is. However, North may be doing other work on wearables and hardware, so Google may be considering other applications. Of course, this may just be a bet hedging by Google, as we are still waiting for the Fitbit acquisition to be approved.
Google confirms acquisition
Today, North and Google’s Rick Osterlow confirmed the acquisition in a pair of blog posts. Our coverage has been updated with this information.
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