Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., confirmed on Tuesday (June 30) that it has purchased North, the Canadian startup best known for Focals, its $600 smart glasses.
Terms were not disclosed, but The Globe and Mail reported the deal was worth about $180 million.
“North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, wrote on the company’s blog.
He said Google is building toward a future where all devices just work together and technology fades into the background. “We call this ambient computing,” Osterloh wrote.
For North’s employees, it won’t be much of an inconvenience. They'll join the Google team in Canada’s Twin Cities, Kitchener-Waterloo, North’s hometown, Osterloh wrote.
North Co-founders Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant said the acquisition is a good fit and, importantly, they’re staying in Kitchener-Waterloo.
“Over the last while, it became clear that aligning with Google would significantly advance our shared vision,” they wrote on North’s blog. “We are looking forward to remaining in the region with Google.”
Despite dropping the price of its Focals to $600 last year from the original $1,000, North had reportedly sold very few pairs, The Globe and Mail reported. A source told them it was unlikely that the company sold more than 1,000 pairs since its launch in late 2018.
Focals is an augmented reality (AR) device that supports notifications from Android devices. Compared to Google Glass, North’s smart glasses let Android users access any actions in their phone’s notification center, such as answering emails, retweeting and getting play-by-play sports updates.
When Google Glass launched in 2013, the expensive device was glitchy, had a short battery life and was described by some as “dorky looking.” Google Glass was later abandoned by Google.
But the report noted that just because something didn’t work six years ago doesn’t mean it can never succeed. North is convinced that its smart specs deserve a second run at greatness.