Google buys AR Canadian smart glasses startup

July 07, 2020 //By Rich Pell
Google buys AR smart glasses startup in 'ambient computing' push
Tech giant Google has announced that it has acquired Canadian AR smart glasses company North, which will be joining its hardware division.

The move, says Google, supports its broader efforts to "build helpful devices and services" and it will revive Google's smart glasses early efforts.

"From 10 blue links on a PC, to Maps on your mobile phone, to Google Nest Hub sharing a recipe in the kitchen, Google has always strived to be helpful to people in their daily lives," says Rick Osterloh, Google Senior Vice President, Devices & Services. "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. North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future."

North, which began as a human-interface hardware startup Thalmic Labs in 2012, makes holographic smart glasses - called Focal - that are similar to Google's own smart glasses, Google Glass. The Focal glasses, released last year, resemble regular eyeglasses and pair over Bluetooth to a user's smartphone. They display information superimposed over the real world, can read text messages, and connect to Alexa.

Now, says the company, it will be winding down its support for the Focal glasses (and issue refunds for all paid orders) and canceling plans for its second-generation devices, which had been planned for sometime in the coming months.

"Early on," says North's founders, "our focus was on new forms of interaction with Myo, a gesture based input device that directly coupled neuro-muscular impulses into signals computers could understand. We then shifted focus to Focals, our everyday smart glasses with direct retinal projection and prescription compatibility. Over the last while, it became clear that aligning with Google would significantly advance our shared vision."

The company says it will be joining the Google team based in Kitchener-Waterloo, North's hometown. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but reports placed the price at around $180 million.

Google
North

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Google Glass


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