With their ordinary-looking glasses that have “technology that’s there when you need it, gone when you don’t, hidden by design”, Focals by North just might be the smartest glasses in the market, perhaps even better than Google Glass. Still, it wasn’t perfect. The Focals had a lot of issues when it was released, and this resulted in the product not selling well in the market.
Unlike the tech giant Google, which could probably withstand a failure or two, North isn’t that big of a company. Because their product was a flop in the market, the company’s future was bleak. It was rapidly losing money, and just a month after it released the glasses, it had to lay off 150 employees just to keep itself running.
The Focals were anywhere from $600 to $1,000, depending on your color and prescription needs, and launched in 2019. By all accounts, the company was not doing well before Google bought it. After the January 2019 launch, Focals laid off 150 employees in February 2019, a substantial portion of the "over 400 people" it employed. Josh O'Kane, the reporter who broke the acquisition story for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, said on Twitter, "We've learned the company likely sold very, very few Focals and was running out of money." The company has planned a Focals 2.0 with a better display and lighter body, but with the Google acquisition, those products are canceled.
Thankfully, the company is in better hands now. But it has been anticlimactic for the company’s CEO.
Google's smart glasses contribution was, of course, the infamous Google Glass, which launched in 2012 and basically shut down as a consumer product about two years later. (North CEO Stephen Lake actually called Google Glass "a massive failure" in a 2019 tech talk. Awkward!)
More details about this over at Ars Technica.
(Image Credit: North/ Ars Technica)