Focals already had an advantage over any other smart glasses when it hit the mainstream market in October 2018. They look like regular prescription glasses, allowing them to blend into a crowd. But the maker of Focals, Ontario-based North, is already preparing to usher in an updated design in Focals 2.0, its next generation of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses.
Focals 2.0 will start shipping in 2020, North announced today. It was scarce on details in its announcement but did say Focals 2.0 will offer a "10x improved retinal display." A spokesperson told Tom's Hardware that this means the resolution of the glasses AR image will be 10 times greater than that of the original Focals, which had a roughly 200 x 200 resolution, depending on the frames. That could certainly up the appeal of North’s offering, making its AR projected images look more sharp and detailed and with a higher resolution than many people's TVs or PC monitors. However, in our review of Focals, we commented on how shaky the AR images the glasses project looked at times, creating a flickering effect reminiscent of a CRT monitor. It's unclear if that will be addressed with Focals 2.0.
The current-gen Focals’ look are arguably the best thing about the smart glasses, and North claimed its next-gen specs will be 40% smaller. Making the glasses even more fashionable will make it harder for chunkier competitors like the Vuzix Blade win over this emerging market. You might not look twice at someone walking down the street wearing Focals, save for the projector visible in the right lens. Focals 2.0 should make the AR gadget even less conspicuous, and based on the image above it even looks like North was able to reduce the visibility of the AR projector.
Stephen Lake, North’s CEO and co-founder, believes Focals 2.0 are on a "completely different level" than the original Focals.
"We spent the last year in the market learning how to build, sell and support smart glasses with our first generation product, that we now will combine with over five years of research working on the technology upgrades in Focals 2.0," he said in a statement.
There’s no word on whether North will update the Focals’ operating system or the Loop, the ring that lets users control the smart glasses’ apps discretely. North also hasn’t revealed pricing (the current-gen Focals are $599 / $799 CAD).
North stopped production of its original Focals smart glasses on December 3, and they're no longer available as of today. However, North will still release new features for them ahead of the debut of Focals 2.0. North sold its first line of Focals via its Brooklyn and Toronto stores, pop-up showrooms and the North iOS app.