North Focals smart glasses had a few obstacles upon release this year.
For one, they’re smart glasses. If a tech giant like Google couldn’t get people to accept Google Glass in public, why would Focals be any different? Well, North quickly answered that question with its classic, yet stylish, design that let me to wear them for a week during a San Diego vacation without getting mocked or beat up.
The other issue was one of logistics. Focals are custom-fit and so required shoppers to come into a shop for measurements. The problem? Their only locations were in Brooklyn and Toronto.
Today, North has at least slightly boosted the chances of Focals’ survival by announcing that you no longer have to be a hipster or Canadian to easily get fitted for Focals. Now, you can get fitted and buy the prescription (optional) smart glasses through an app.
Focals allow you to control apps like Spotify, Amazon Alexa, Weather and directions with a coy ring. Since February, North has also been hosting pop-up showrooms, but being able to buying the glasses off your phone without even getting off the couch is clearly much easier. It’s hard enough to get people to go to physical stores as it is, let alone for a niche product.
"Our flagship and pop-up showrooms have been a great opportunity to engage directly with and learn from our earliest customers, but we recognize our limited footprint represents a major barrier to customers outside of those locations," Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of North, said in a statement.
The app works on iPhone X or newer iPhones newer since that's the platform where the 3D scanning is "validated and consistent," Lake told Tom's Hardware. It uses San Francisco-based start-up Standard Cyborg’s 3D scanning technology to measure your eyes, face and ears. You scan it by holding the front camera to your face and rotating your head. You then pick your style, including shape and color. You can also upload your prescription (if applicable). North may launch the app for other platforms, depending on what it learns from its iOS launch.
However, when I got my Focals, one of the most detailed parts of the process was the fitting. During the Focals fitting process, I entered a futuristic booth in the Brooklyn stores, where I sat down for a face scan that immediately provided a 3D image of my face and ears on the technician's PC. So I asked North, could a smartphone really capture the measuring accuracy--that led to Focals being the most well-fitting glasses I’ve ever owned--through a smartphone?
"Using our in-store sizing experience, we were able to learn about and refine the fit process in a controlled environment. We used those learnings to help develop our mobile 3D scanning technology in the Focals Showroom app, where we deliver the most accurate mobile eyewear fitting technology ever released," Lake told Tom's Hardware. "Using our experience of having sized many thousands of customers in our retail stores, we were able to validate our mobile fitting technology and ensure our customers get the right fit, even from home.
In its announcement, Focals also promised that it won’t use sell or share customer data and encrypt any customer information or “facial data” for storage. It added that a limited number of people will access this information, and it’s deleted after 30 days if you don’t buy Focals. North also claimed customers can “request deletion of this information at any time.”
The Brooklyn, Toronto and pop-up showrooms will continue to exist, serving as a helpful location to both try out and buy Focals. At the time of writing, there are pop-ups planned for Houston and Los Angeles.
However, North is really hoping for the app to make its smart glasses more accessible and help elevate smart glasses into the mainstream.
"As we scale the number of wearers with the Focals Showroom app, we’ll understand more than ever about how, when and where people use AR in their daily lives," Lake said
Photo Credits: North