November 18, 2018

A Kitchener-Waterloo tech company, Thalmic Labs, has announced that it will be rebranding and changing its name to North, as its launches its new smart glasses product, Focals.

Focals have a built-in projector that shines tiny beams of light off the lens and onto the eye. This creates a hologram that shows up about an arm’s length in front of the user. The glasses connect via Bluetooth to an iOS and Android device and can be controlled with a five-way joystick attached to a ring that a user wears on the hand.

The company also teamed up with Amazon and integrated the tech with Alexa, Amazon’s AI assistant. With Focals, users would be able to do things such as send and receive text messages, check time and weather, get step-by-step directions and even order an Uber. The glasses also feature discreet headphones built into the arms that only the wearer can hear.

Chief executive officer Stephen Lake says that the company took a design-first approach to the glasses, in order to prevent the negative reactions that came with Google’s smart glasses attempt back in 2012. Consumers did not adopt the Google Glass system, due to the look of the glasses. Focals, however, are more discrete and have been designed first by an eyewear designer, then the engineers. This gives the glasses a more stylish look and the company hopes that will help consumers to adopt the idea.

Currently, North is only taking pre-orders with a $100 deposit, but the cost of the glasses will be $1,000. The company only has two showrooms, one located in Toronto and the other in Brooklyn N.Y. Customers need to go to one of their two showrooms in order to be custom-fit.

In order to focus their efforts, North is cancelling it only other product, Myo, a device that can control computers and electronics using arm gestures.

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