North has purchased the patents and technology behind Intel's Vaunt AR glasses for an undisclosed sum. The company is working on a similar AR glasses product of its own, Focals, but it reportedly also wanted access to Intel's research into specific aspects of its smartglasses prototype.
We covered the Focals, which cost $999, in October. The glasses primarily differ from other AR products in two ways: they look like prescription glasses instead of props from an '80s sci-fi movie, and their displays are completely invisible to everyone but their wearer. These factors combine to make Focals the first AR glasses that could be surreptitiously worn in public--at least based on our initial impressions from a demo of the product.
Intel revealed the Vaunt AR earlier than North showed off Focals--the chip maker's announcement was made in February--but it never brought the technology to market. The project itself was reportedly shuttered in April alongside the rest of the smartglasses division because the segment didn't attract enough interest. You don't need a hidden display to see why the company would rather sell its work on the subject than let it languish.
Especially when you consider that Intel Capital invested in North back in 2016. That means everything is coming up Intel: the deal helps recover the research costs involved with the Vaunt AR glasses, helps prepare an Intel Capital portfolio company for success, and gets plenty of press coverage for smartglasses that probably would've gone unnoticed by most people. (Like, you know, the story you're reading at this very moment. Eerie.)
Focals is available now from North's showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto. It's not clear how widely available the glasses will eventually become--they're sold exclusively via showrooms because each pair must be carefully fitted to make sure the display works. Still, managing to sell a single pair would still mean North's offering found more success than Intel's despite being made by a startup rather than a leading technology company.