Thalmic Labs Becomes ‘North,’ Launches ‘Focals’ Augmented Reality Smartglasses

Focals AR glasses
Image: North

Thalmic Labs changed its name to ‘North’ and has come up with a great idea to stop you from looking at your smartwatches every few minutes. Why ‘North’? Because, it sounds more like a “fashion and lifestyle” brand and less like a tech company. So, North just launched a pair of AR smartglasses called ‘Focals,’ which will show all your notifications right in front of your eyes so you won’t have to look at your smartwactch.

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What sets Focal apart from other Augmented Reality glasses is that it doesn’t have a screen, instead just light filters through. Founder Stephen Lake calls it “a holographic lens that never existed before.”

The holographic display appears at arm’s length. It’s off by default, and wakes up only when it has something urgent to tell you, or if you ask it to, reports Vox.

The Focal’s foundational principles bear is very much similar to Google Glass. They both use a tiny projector to reflect the image onto the wearer’s fovea, the part of the retina with the sharpest vision. This is how the glass is able to give you a clear image despite being in such close proximity to the eye.

Focals AR glasses
Turn-by-turn navigation one would see in Focals (Image: North)

Although the projector shoots away from the viewer and the picture is floating in the air, the content of the display isn’t visible to others. Focals’ reflection piece uses a proprietary polarized coating that prevents the light from penetrating the lens, thus your data keeps to your eyes only.

There’s privacy for others as well. For example, Google glass could start recording audio and video with just a voice command, which raised concerns among people and ultimately led to a ban in sensitive places. The Focals, however is strictly an output device. There’s no camera and the microphone is used for voice commands only. This removes any privacy issue surrounding this device.

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As it has fewer sensors and fewer parts to power, it has a longer battery life. Compared to Google glass, which lasts only 5 hours on a single charge, Focals can go on for up to 18 hours. Each pair of glasses has a dedicated charging case, supplying up to 3 full charges.

Price of a pair of Focals is $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.