Google gets serious about AR again, acquires "smart-glasses" company North
Following the footsteps of players like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, internet giant Google is also joining the bandwagon of Augmented Reality or AR. The company has acquired North, a Canada-based start-up that has been making and selling relatively thin and normal-looking AR-powered smart glasses called Focals. Here's all you need to know about North and its acquisition by Google.
Founded eight years ago by Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant, North started off as a company focused on building human interface hardware. However, eventually, its efforts shifted towards building Focals, prescription-based everyday smart glasses that used a holographic lens to bring information ranging from texts and call alerts to reminders, maps, and weather updates right in front of your eyes.
In a recent blog post, Rick Osterloh, Google's SVP of Devices & Services, announced the company's decision to acquire North. He did not share the financial details of the acquisition but suggested that the start-up's "strong technology foundation" was the key driver behind the deal. Osterloh also noted that North will continue to remain in Canada's Kitchener-Waterloo area and will join Google's team there.
While acquiring an AR glasses company signals a direct move into the category, Google appears to have a bigger (?) plan. According to the announcements from the companies, North will wind down support for Focals 1.0 released over a year ago, cancel plans for Focals 2.0, and deploy its technical expertise to back Google's "broader efforts to build helpful devices and services."
Both the companies expressed the plan to work towards enabling a future of "ambient computing", where technology blends into the real world, becoming immediately accessible when needed, but also staying hidden away when not. Now, this sounds something like normal-looking smart glasses such as Focals but neither Google nor North has said anything about what exactly they plan to build together for consumers.
For now, the speculation is, Google could either launch a consumer-focused AR glass to take on players like Apple, Facebook or it could use North's expertise to enhance and upgrade its existing Google Glass. Google Glass was launched seven years ago, but is now focused towards enterprises and developers. Its latest generation, Enterprise Edition 2, went on sale just a few months ago.