Google has acquired North, the company behind the Focals range of smart glasses.
In an announcement Google’s Senior Vice President of Devices & Services Rick Osterloh said the acquisition was to further the company’s step into ambient computing, where “technology fades into the background”.
While its unclear if Google will definitely pursue smart glasses tech, it seems likely given North’s Focals 1.0 range ( review from YouTube’s Mr Mobile here) were smart glasses that gave AR-style information to the wearer. Information like notifications, directions, and calendar appointments sprung up in eyeline and were controllable by a small joystick on a ring worn on an index finger.
“North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future,” said Osterloh, who didn’t give away much else other than “we’re excited to have North join us in our broader efforts to build helpful devices and services.”
Google still makes its Google Glass AR glasses for businesses and enterprise despite giving up on the consumer side of the product.
Before Focals 1.0, North worked on a project called Myo that was a bracelet-style device controlled via gestures and neuro-muscular impulses. Now, Google will absorb North’s employees, and North confirmed it will not be shipping Focals 2.0. It also said it would be “winding down” Focals 1.0 and there’s a link on the North website for refunds.
Google could be making a habit of acquiring talent from companies but not going on to produce products those companies were known for. This is known as acquihiring, seen when Google hired most of HTC’s smartphone arm.
It also seems for now as though that has happened to an extent with Fitbit, which Google bought in November 2019. Although Fitbit put out the Charge 4 tracker, it’s unclear what Google has in store for the brand. It might be that these acquisitions will fold new employees into Google but spell the end of the old brands.