Jul 1, 2020 - Technology

Google buys smart glasses firm North

People wearing glasses

Courtesy: North

Google formally announced on Tuesday that it is buying North, the Canadian smart glasses firm — a deal that had been reported last week to be in the works.

Why it matters: The move shows that Google, one of the earliest to explore high-tech eyewear, remains interested in the category.

  • Along with the acquisition, North said it was cancelling plans for its next generation of glasses. "We are winding down Focals 1.0 and we will not be shipping Focals 2.0, but we hope you will continue the journey with us as we start this next chapter," North's founders said in a blog post.

Between the lines: Augmented reality glasses are seen as the next big thing in mobile devices — but they're also still a couple of years from being ready for prime time due to high costs, poor battery life and bulk. Those factors have made it tough for North and other startups in the field.

  • Magic Leap has had its highly publicized troubles, while another pioneer — Osterhout Design Group — folded last year.

For the big companies, though, AR remains an area of keen interest.

  • Microsoft has been plugging along with its high-end HoloLens device, selling it largely to businesses in limited volumes as it waits for the component costs to come down.
  • Apple is said to be developing an AR headset, with hints coming from executive comments and patent filings, as well as technologies that have shown up elsewhere, such as the LIDAR sensor in the latest iPad Pro or the new spatial audio feature coming to the AirPod Pro line.

Separately: Google has begun public testing of "Nearby Share," an AirDrop competitor that is coming to Android devices.

Go deeper: Google will start paying publishers to license content

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