North is releasing its new smart glasses. The glasses smart capabilities are an extension to a pair of prescription glasses that you can actually use to see. The projection technology is integrated in a subtle, minimalistic way to avoid making the wearer stand out.
The Focals smart glasses aim to provide an intuitive way to check notifications, speak with Alexa, plan a commute using Uber, and more. Its philosophy isn’t to cram in exorbitant functions, but to give quick, snappy bits of important information.
Focals can easily pass off as a normal pair of glasses, albeit with thicker legs that hold the electronics and battery. Its plastic frame is light and durable, weighing around 60 grams while being water and dust resistant.
How it works
The Focal’s use a tiny projector to reflect the image onto the wearer’s fovea, the part of the retina that sees the sharpest, presenting a clear image despite being in such close proximity to the eye.
The glasses have the deflection piece embedded directly on the lens. It’s a tiny circular lens that’s extremely difficult to spot. By pointing the projector forward, it can be tucked away into the leg of the glass. Since the reflector piece is on the glass, it doesn’t need a dedicated housing eliminating the need to adjust focal distance regardless of prescription.
Because the reflection piece is stationary, its position needs to be custom calibrated for every user. In addition, the frame needs to sit perfectly so that the reflection could enter the eye at the correct angle. North uses an imaging station that has 11 cameras to create a 3D model of your head, which it then uses to tailor the frame.
The smart glasses reflection piece uses a proprietary polarized coating that prevents the light from penetrating the lens, thus keeping your data for your eyes only. The Focals is strictly an output device. It doesn’t have cameras, and the microphone is only used to issue voice commands. This alleviates much of the privacy issues surrounding smart glasses.
The Focals can last up to 18 hours. Each pair of glasses comes with a dedicated charging case that can supply up to three full charges.
While North hasn’t given a concrete answer on cost, it’s a safe bet that replacement parts won’t be cheap. Luckily, Focals does come with a 1-year warranty and 30-day return policy.
Each pair of Focals glasses cost $1,299. Upon launch, it will be available in a standard square frame and a round frame, both of which come in either black or turtle shell.
The North store will open in downtown Toronto and Brooklyn early November. While initial order fulfillment could take up to a few months, North is hoping to eventually reduce the turnaround time to just a few days.