Eyewear manufacturer North today announced that it has discontinued production of its first-generation Focals eyewear, which it launched last year for consumers. Instead, the company plans to focus on Focals 2.0, a next generation product release to be delivered by 2020.
Focals is North's first product since the company changed its name to Thalmic Labs and the transition from the evolution of intelligent gesture-control hardware to eyewear with integrated heads-up display and smartphone connectivity. CEO and Founder Stephen Lake told me in a previous interview that the company, in developing its Myo gesture control bracelet, realized that it was actually more urgent to develop the next major shift in the computer platform before interface devices for these platforms would be attacked, therefore the change.
Focals 2.0 will be "on a completely different level" and "the most advanced smart glasses ever made," said a press release announcing the new-generation device. With regard to how well it will improve over the original, North does not say much, but it said that the 2.0 version made it lighter as well as "leaner" and that it was a much sharper, "10" version. "improved version" will provide. built-in display.
North began selling its Focals smart glasses through physical showrooms, first opened in Brooklyn and Toronto. In addition to a number of pop-up showroom locations that toured North America, personal touchdowns and accessories for the smart goggles were provided that need to be tailor-made for individual users to display the contents of their goggles properly supported applications. More recently, North has also added a showroom app for iOS devices that includes custom sizing with newer hardware for depth-sensitive cameras for the iPhone.
So far, North has not reported sales of its original Focals device, but the company has lowered the price of the $ 999 glasses relatively soon after launch to just under $ 600 (no prescription). Their costs, combined with the need for a personal fit before buying (until the launch of the showroom app) and certain gaps in the product's features, such as: For example, the inability to natively support iMessage on iOS suggests that initial revenue is relatively high at low volume.
North's merit is that Focals are the first smart eyewear hardware to have a relatively unobtrusive look. Although the arms are slightly thicker on both sides than the average, and the battery, projection and computer components are housed on both sides, the focals resemble thick acrylic plastic frames as made famous by Warby Parker and other standard eyewear manufacturers.
With version 2.0, Focals seems to be making further progress in developing a design that closely follows standard eyewear. One of the problems that some users have experienced with the first-generation product was a relatively blurred image created by the built-in projector, which required a special calibration in order to stay focused.
However, the Focals successor will still face a tough battle when it comes to achieving mass appeal. It is unlikely that the costs will be significantly reduced, although any progress that it can make on this front will definitely be helpful. And it still requires either that non-wearers opt for wearing glasses on a regular basis, or that wearers of glasses are in the acceptable prescription range that is supported by the hardware, and willing to spend a little more on connected glasses functions.
The company states that the reason for discontinuing the production of Focals 1.0 is to focus on the introduction of 2.0, but it is not a good sign that there is a break in terms of availability between the two will give both generations. Thalmic Labs and now North, through their two iterations as a company, have not achieved the best results in developing hardware that has been a hit for potential customers – Focals 2.0 will, whenever they arrive, iterate a lot to prove it has enough to iterate driving significant demand.