AR More Appealing with New Smart Glasses

A startup may have more success with smart glasses than its predecessors—Google Glass and Snapchat Spectacles. North, which just rebranded from Thalmic Labs, recently launched Focals, a unique, easy-to-use product with its own fashionable style and stores to sell the first pair of “everyday smart glasses.”

Stephen Lake, CEO of North, at the company’s new Brooklyn, New York store, still under construction, wears Focals. The display is on a in the right lens of his glasses that looks like a smudge. When the photopolymer material that serves as the display catches the light, it looks like the glasses are dirty.

The glasses work like  Intel’s disbanded Vaunt smart glasses project in that both take advantage of retinal projection, meaning the image they display shines on the back of the viewer’s retina, which leaves everything in focus. Focals are available with or without prescriptions or with contacts. They won’t work with bifocals, however, and can only handle prescriptions between +2 and -4.

North built custom software for the glasses and designed the UI in-house. It’s colorful with slight animations. Users can view messages, send automated responses through SMS, call an Uber, get turn-by-turn directions through Mapbox, view a calendar, or check the weather. An image will automatically disappear after three seconds of non-use. A ring (see above image) transmits data to the glasses and is used to navigate through images.

Users can swipe through notifications by pushing left or right on the Loop joystick and pressing down to make a selection. It can trigger Amazon’s Alexa assistant, which is built-in. The glasses have a microphone and speaker inside, allowing users to issue commands to Alexa and hear responses if necessary. (Amazon was a leading investor in North’s Series B funding.)


Photo by Ashley Carman / The Verge