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An eyewear first approach to smart glasses

North spoke to OT  about Focals at Vision Expo East in March

Focals spectacles
Focals are “everyday smart glasses,” according to chief marketing officer of eyewear technology brand North, Adam Ketcheson.

Speaking to OT at Vision Expo East in New York (21–24 March), Mr Ketcheson explained that the company is taking an “eyewear first approach to the smart glasses market.”

“We make glasses that look and feel good while solving those basic challenges that glasses are supposed to solve then enhancing them with smart features,” he said.

Focals took four years to develop before being launched in October 2018. The finished product started shipping a month before the company exhibited at Vision Expo East.

The smart glasses can include a single vision prescription lens between +2 and -4, and are meant to be an augmented version of everyday spectacles, the company explained.

Speaking about the features of Focals, Mr Ketcheson told OT: “Focals gives you the ability to message, navigate new places with turn by turn directions and get calendar updates.”

“The people around you have no idea that you’ve just got a notification or even replied to it while staying focused on what you were doing,” he added.

The smart glasses have a projector that shoots a small ray of light onto a hologram on the lens, which bounces the light back onto your eye and “paints the image onto your retina.”

Pairing with a smartphone, the smart glasses are controlled by a ring-like device worn on the user’s finger that works like a joystick, enabling the user to scroll through various functions such as booking an Uber or sending a message.

As well as partnering with Uber, North has received investment from Amazon who has developed specific sound and display features for Focals using its Alexa technology.

Focals is the first generation of the smart glasses and the company is in the process of working out what apps and experiences work best on a pair of spectacles compared to a smartphone or laptop.

Mr Ketcheson explained: “We want to make sure that everyone has the best experience from a display and usability standpoint. In order to make that happen, we invite people to our showrooms and take a 3D scan of their face to build a custom product for them.”

These showrooms are currently based in North America with sites in New York and Toronto, as well as a mobile showroom that is moving around the West Coast. Focals is not currently being distributed in the UK, but it is a market that the company wants to explore.