UPDATED 16:06 EDT / JUNE 30 2020


Google confirms reported acquisition of smart glasses startup North

Google LLC today confirmed that it has bought Canadian smart glasses maker North Inc., less than a week after it was reported that the search giant was negotiating an acquisition.

Sources told Canada’s The Globe and Mail last Thursday that Google was poised to pay about $180 million for the startup. The search giant didn’t disclose the acquisition price in today’s announcement.

North has developed a pair of smart glasses called Focals that display mobile alerts in front of the user’s right eye using a holographic display projector. The projector, which is located next to the right lens, bounces light off a special component in the lens to generate images. The Focals glasses also make it possible to perform certain tasks such as hailing an Uber ride and controlling a Spotify playlist.

In a statement, North’s founders said the startup will stop supporting the Focals following the acquisition and halt development on a planned second-generation version. That suggests the search giant is mainly acquiring North for its assets and talent, which aligns with what sources told The Globe and Mail.

Google emphasized the expertise it’s poised to gain through the deal in the acquisition announcement. “North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future,” wrote Rick Osterloh, the search giant’s senior vice president of devices and services.

North had more than 200 employees as of February 2019. The acquisition potentially represents a major expansion of Google’s smart glasses team, with the North staff set to continue working out of the Kitchener-Waterloo region in Canada where it has operated for the past eight years. The additional technical talent could help Google speed up the development roadmap for Google Glass Enterprise Edition. 

Google Glass Enterprise Edition is a smart glasses product aimed at industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. It competes with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. The fact that Google has acquired North to expand this part of its business suggests a strong commitment on the company’s part to the augmented reality market, even though the expected revenue opportunities in this segment have been slow to materialize.

The deal may also mean Microsoft can expect more competition. North’s Focals glasses are significantly smaller than traditional AR systems such as the HoloLens 2 thanks to the compact holographic display projector inside, which Google could theoretically incorporate into future products. Microsoft, for its part, is actively working to reduce the size of its headset, with Microsoft Fellow Alex Kipman telling an Australian paper last year that the goal is to make the HoloLens as comfortable as a pair of reading glasses.

Image: North

A message from John Furrier, co-founder of SiliconANGLE:

Your vote of support is important to us and it helps us keep the content FREE.

One click below supports our mission to provide free, deep, and relevant content.  

Join our community on YouTube

Join the community that includes more than 15,000 #CubeAlumni experts, including Amazon.com CEO Andy Jassy, Dell Technologies founder and CEO Michael Dell, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, and many more luminaries and experts.

“TheCUBE is an important partner to the industry. You guys really are a part of our events and we really appreciate you coming and I know people appreciate the content you create as well” – Andy Jassy