No one saw this one coming. While we busied ourselves with big name conferences, a small, relatively unknown company was cooking things up. North, an Amazon-funded startup, has been hard at work to create screen-less Focals AR glasses that shoot information holograms in front of your eyes.
Sounds odd, but it is the best way to put it. The idea behind this unusually stylish invention is to make the information we generally receive through phones as unassuming as possible. Having no screen, Focals AR glasses rely on holographic display positioned right in front and at arm’s length. Glasses on, the info on weather, distance, calendar, or the like is only a look ahead away. The animations appear smoothly, and die down when you look away. As North designer Marie Stipancik put it:
‘We want people to live with their heads up.’
It is hard to say what’s on or off with Focals. Un-intrusiveness being their merit, they are off by default, animated into action either by urgency or desire. The glasses are wheeled by the Loop, a small joystick acting as a ring. The Focals themselves are somewhat bulky on the inside, mostly due to a projector nested near the right temple.
North Founder, Stephen Lake describes Focals as:
‘Ultra-customized product that’s meant to be part of your life all day, every day’
They are meant to transform the way we use technology, reducing time spent in front of screens. The information they provide is sensibly scarce; the hologram displays only what is useful in any given moment. They also act as voice assistant, borrowing the voice form Amazon’s Alexa.
If this sounds a little too premium, wait until you hear the shopping process. One look at Focals and you see they’re stylish too. That’s because they are custom-made. Each model is made according to an individual head/face model captured by as much as 11 cameras. The purchase is in effect a complicated affair whereby you visit one of their stores in Brooklyn or Toronto to go through their sizing process. If not near Toronto or Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the best bet is to preorder them online. The price is premium too, currently selling for $999 per piece.
At a glance, Focals AR glasses look very similar to the discontinued Google Glass, but Lake was quick to dismiss the similarities. He insists that every piece of technology they have built from the ground up. ‘We’re not Google’ sayth Lake, ‘we’re not a tech company that’s trying to take the tech we already have and shove it in your face’. The North founder punctuates the statement by stressing out that Focals AR glasses is a combined effort of 500 people and 5 years in work.
One could push an argument that we are living as cyborgs already, with phones and various devices being but extensions of ourselves. Focals AR glasses take the argument beyond any reasonable doubt. Nonetheless, anything that limits the daily usage of phones is welcome. Particularly if it is such a neat and stylish piece of technology.