Google acquires North, augmented reality glasses start-up

Focals by North smart glasses

Source: Focals by North

Alphabet‘s Google announced Tuesday it acquired North, an eight-year-old, Amazon-backed company that makes smart glasses. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but the Globe and Mail, which first reported Google’s interest, placed the price around $180 million, which is less than the $200 million the company had raised, according to Crunchbase.

Google was an early pioneer in the field of augmented reality, where computer-generated images are superimposed over the real world, often in a pair of computerized glasses. Google Glass, one of the first such devices, was unveiled in 2012, but high initial pricing and privacy concerns — the glasses contained a video camera — doomed its appeal among consumers. Nonetheless, Google continues to make a version of Google Glass available to enterprises, where it competes with Microsoft‘s Hololens.

Google said that the acquisition would help realize its vision of “ambient computing,” where ubiquitous connected devices work together.

“We’re building towards a future where helpfulness is all around you, where all your devices just work together and technology fades into the background,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, said in a statement. “North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future.”

The Canadian company, formerly known as Thalmic Labs, rebranded in 2018 when it unveiled its holographic smart glasses, called Focals. North said Tuesday it will not ship its updated version of glasses, Focals 2.0, which were to hit the market this year after the company announced it would wind down production of its first-generation model.

The company will remain located in Canada.  

WATCH CNBC take North’s Focal glasses for a spin in 2018:

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