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.