North Announces New Updates and Hits the Road with Focals

The latest in smart glasses technology is hitting the road to bring the product to as many new customers as possible.

North has announced a tour to bring their product Focals to new consumers, starting with a stop in Seattle from February 19 to 22, and then moving on to San Francisco and an undisclosed location in the Valley at either the end of February or the first week of March. The pop-up location will allow the public to try the Focals on and experience what the smart glasses have to offer. A spokesperson for North has said appointments for Seattle are already filling up.

The Waterloo-based North has a very detailed process to purchase a pair of Focals. Consumers must undergo a guided fitting process that was originally only available in the company’s Brooklyn and Toronto showrooms—hence the pop-up tour bringing the technology to more potential customers. It involves a dozen cameras taking shape of a wearer’s head, then sitting down with an optician to finalize the fit. There were a number of challenges when it came to mobilizing the fitting experience, such as the difficulty in keeping the customized fitting booth calibrated.

focals north
A look inside North’s mobile Focals fitting booth.

With tour stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and the Valley, there is a very deliberate theme for this North pop-up tour: Focus on the tech hubs of North America.

“We very intentionally started with shops in Brooklyn and Toronto. That’s not the way a lot of tech companies would approach marketing,” says Alexander Ingram, a spokesperson for North. “We built a brand and a product that is different from a lot of other consumer tech products. We leaned into apparel and a lot of that starts in Brooklyn and Toronto. But it’s also a technology product, so for us, it’s about striking this balance between a cultural center of tastemakers like Brooklyn, and then some early adopters like those in San Francisco. It’s a great reflection of that balance.”

“Between Toronto and New York, we felt the East Coast is in good shape, though I know there are a lot of other cities there,” says Ingram. “We had a lot of hand raisers in Seattle and the Bay Area in particular.”

North also announced two large product updates: They are rolling out prescription lenses for Focals, and dropping the price by roughly 40 per cent, from $999 USD to $599 USD, or $1299 CAD to $799 CAD. Prescription lenses will cost an additional $200, while colour upgrades will also cost a bit more.

There was a bit of difficulty in rolling out prescription lenses, as using a holographic display on a curved lens was one of the proprietary technologies North created for Focals. They had to slightly tweak their model for prescriptions, and now a few weeks after the first pairs have shipped, can begin to take in orders from customers with prescription lenses.

Moving forward, North is focusing on nailing first experiences and getting the product into as many consumers’ hands as possible. They know there are countless ways to integrate new technologies into the product, and event to find better ways to execute on currently-integrated options such as messaging. As they receive more user data on what customers love and don’t love, they plan to ship updates and address the biggest negative factors in the future.

Towards the end of 2018, North received $24 million from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund to add to their manufacturing facilities in Waterloo.