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Google Acquires North's Focals Smartglasses Business

Google Acquires North's Focals Smartglasses Business

Google confirmed it acquired North and its Focals smartglasses platform.

Reports had been circulating in recent days that an acquisition was in the works and now Google formally confirmed the move.

“Today we’re announcing that Google has acquired North, a pioneer in human computer interfaces and smart glasses. They’ve built a strong technology foundation, and we’re excited to have North join us in our broader efforts to build helpful devices and services,” Google’s Senior Vice President of Devices & Service Rick Osterloh wrote in a prepared statement. “We’re building towards a future where helpfulness is all around you, where all your devices just work together and technology fades into the background. We call this ambient computing.”

The team coming on board at Google will stay based in Kitchener-Waterloo Canada, where North is located.

North was formerly known as Thalmic Labs and the group previously made the Myo gesture-based input device that looks vaguely similar to work being done at Crtl Labs, a startup that Facebook acquired last year. It looks like there’s a major gap in tracking robustness between what Facebook acquired in 2019 and what Myo had at launch in 2016 but there’s also a multi-year gap in between the technology developments. Instead of the arm-band, Focals smartglasses became the focus of the work at North.

Focals offered simple notification features similar to a smart watch and a basic display system in a slim pair of glasses. In a statement from the founders of North the company confirmed it would not be shipping the 2.0 version of the glasses.

Google, Apple, Facebook and others continue to build toward a augmented reality platforms but difficult problems need to be solved on a number of fronts before we might see a compelling consumer AR platform emerge in the coming years. Acquiring startups can also have cascading effects on the internal structure and hardware plans at major technology companies, and we’ll be curious to see how North impacts Google’s efforts in AR.

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