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Google is acquiring the smart glasses maker North Inc., reportedly for about $ 180 million, supporting its hardware, wearable and “ambient computing” efforts with the acquisition. Google has had limited success with its “Google Glass”
In case you’re unfamiliar, North is a Canada-based company that makes smart glasses that project an image onto an optional prescription lens. The company previously opened a showroom in Brooklyn, New York in late 2018. Obviously, these glasses do not have a touchscreen: North’s first generation smart glasses used a built-in microphone and a ring (as in: touch controls you wear on a finger) for the controls. They could do things like show you notifications and messages when they arrive or help with navigation. For more details, you can see MrMobile’s video review of the first generation product here.
Virtual demonstration of the first generation “Focals” of the North.
Details about the acquisition leaked to the last weakness thanks to The Globe and Mail. Although the company has not confirmed all the details (such as the final price), Google has further confirmed the acquisition today in a post announcement on the blog of Senior VP of Devices & Services Rick Osterloh, explaining that North will join the Kitchener team. Google Waterloo in Canada. North also confirmed the acquisition in its blog post, explaining that it would liquidate its existing products and that the previously planned future version will not materialize.
North previously acquired Intel patents for smart glasses in 2018, confirming its portfolio. The company also worked on a “neuro-muscular” control system called Myo, and such details may have attracted Google’s attention more than the more pedestrian efforts of the company’s smart glasses.
The acquisition comes when the problems North faced when a company started piling up; failed to materialize a planned second generation product and last year laid off nearly 500 employees. Globe and Mail was told that the company may not have sold “many more than 1,000 pairs” of its Focal smart glasses and that the money was running out.
North reportedly started looking for a buyer earlier this year, apparently attracting Google’s interest.
It remains to be seen how Google plans to use the acquisition. As mentioned, North’s portfolio is somewhat larger than smart glasses alone, although Google might consider reinforcing its patents and efforts in that space alone to be worth it now that Google Glass is getting some traction in the business use. However, North has done other work on wearables and hardware, so Google may have other applications in mind. Of course, we are still waiting for the Fitbit acquisition to be approved, so it may just be Google covering its bets.