focals by north

Google just acquired a Canadian startup that makes futuristic glasses

Google just acquired Canadian tech start-up North, the creator of holographic glasses called Focals, according to a press release from the tech giant on Tuesday.

The Waterloo-based company is a pioneer in human computer interfaces and smart glasses; the start-up's first product — Focals — were glasses that connected to the user's smartphone to display weather notifications, messages and more.

North will now wind down production and move into Google's Kitchener-Waterloo offices.

Google Senior VP Rick Osterloh said in the press release that he is looking forward to having the Canadian tech company aboard.

focals by north

Glasses made by North. Photo bu Hector Vasquez.

"They've built a strong technology foundation, and we're excited to have North join us in our broader efforts to build helpful devices and services," he said.

North similarly expressed their excitement over the new deal in a release on Tuesday, saying that they "couldn't be more thrilled" to be working with Google.

"This acquisition is a terrific fit for North and, importantly, we're staying here in Kitchener-Waterloo," the company release stated. "We're proud to have grown our company in the Kitchener-Waterloo region and are thankful for the tremendous support we've received from the community."

North was originally founded as Thalmic Labs in 2012, focusing exclusively on Myo, an armband controller that worked through muscle twitches. The company re-branded as North in 2018 when it launched a range of holographic eyewear.

Focals encountered some difficulty from the outset, partially due to the product's original hefty price tag of $999.

The glasses also required custom fitting in retail stores — either in Toronto or New York — which made it difficult to obtain them.

In December 2019, North stopped selling Focals 1.0 altogether amidst financial struggles. The company was gearing up to launch a new design of the smart glasses in 2020, but has now presumably axed the plan in light of the deal with Google.

Although neither Google nor North confirmed the value of the acquisition, in an article last week, the Globe and Mail quoted sources that put the deal around $180 million. 

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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