Google scoops up North’s Focals smart glasses

Google has officially completed the acquisition of North, a Canadian company renowned for its fashionable smart glasses.

With the acquisition, North’s development team joins Google to develop its future projects. North says its team will be staying in Waterloo, Ontario.

North, the Waterloo-based company founded by Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant, originally started as Thalmic Labs that created the Myo armband. Following its first venture, Thalmic Labs relaunched as North in October 2018, with the Focals smart glasses as its key product.

Focals had three main features that catered to the masses. Instead of unsightly modules protruding from the glass frame, Focals functional components are tucked away inside the frame’s legs. Second, its design closely matched a regular pair of glasses. Finally, at CA$1,299, it’s relatively affordable and can be tested and purchased from North’s Toronto or New York showrooms. In addition, The company also announced in 2018 that Focals would come with prescription lenses in 2019 for around US$200 (around CA$270) extra.

The idea of fashionable, functional, and widely-available smartglasses received broad media coverage and attention from both consumers and the government. In November 2018, North was given a 24 million investment from the Canadian government. 

But public interest in Focals waned in the subsequent months after its initial launch. In February 2019, North slashed Focals cost by CA$500, dropping it from $1299 to $799. In a statement to The Verge, North reassured the publication that the price cut wasn’t due to poor sales. In the same month, The Canadian government retracted its funding offer and demanded North pay back the CA$7 million it had already received.

Whilst the company didn’t overtly exhibit signs of decline–even announcing the second-generation Focals in December 2019–the Globe and Mail reported that North had been suffering from poor sales prior to its acquisition by Google. North’s showroom staff told the Globe that the company would go for days without a sale. Another source informed the Globe that it’s unlikely that North has sold less than 1,000 pairs of Focals since launch, many of them given to influencers and press.

It’s unclear what Google’s plans on doing with Focals, but the acquisition is definitely pertinent given its company’s aptitude for smart glasses.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

Featured Articles

Empowering the hybrid workforce: how technology can build a better employee experience

Across the country, employees from organizations of all sizes expect flexibility...

What’s behind the best customer experience: How to make it real for your business

The best customer experience – the kind that builds businesses and...

Overcoming the obstacles to optimized operations

Network-driven optimization is a top priority for many Canadian business leaders...

Thriving amid Canada’s tech talent shortage

With today’s tight labour market, rising customer demands, fast-evolving cyber threats...

Staying protected and compliant in an evolving IT landscape

Canadian businesses have changed remarkably and quickly over the last few...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now