While Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat are still working on their first-generation AR wearables, startup North is already preparing to bring its second-generation smartglasses to the world in 2020.
On Tuesday, North announced that Focals 2.0, which will feature a lighter, slimmer design and a ten-fold improvement in retinal design, will begin shipping in 2020.
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The company claims to have reduced the size of the technology in Focals 2.0 by 40%. As a result, the newer models will have temples with hinges at the endpiece, like traditional glasses, as opposed to folding halfway down the temple as with the first-generation Focals.
In addition, as of Dec. 3, North has closed off orders for the Focals 1.0 to concentrate on delivering the sequel. Customers who have placed an order before that date will still be able to receive their devices.
While version 2.0 is not available to order as of yet, interested parties can subscribe to email updates via North's website or keep tabs on their social accounts.
"The first generation of Focals marked the evolution of traditional glasses to smart glasses, with a considered design representing the first true everyday smart glasses available on the market," said Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of North, in a statement. "Focals 2.0 are at a completely different level, as the most advanced smart glasses ever made. They represent an enormous step forward in engineering the future. 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."
No other details regarding price, availability of prescription frames, or whether the fitting process will be required for version 2.0 were shared by North. A company spokesperson did note that, with the cancellation of version 1.0, the Brooklyn store will be open by appointment only, while the Toronto showroom will maintain its regular business hours.
A new smartglasses model isn't the only thing North has in store for the new year. According to a company spokesperson, North is working on an SDK program, with more details to come in 2020.
Just three months after launching Focals in Oct. 2018, North cut the price on its smartglasses and laid off about 150 employees. But the company rebounded with a $40 million funding round in May as it expanded its sales model with mobile showrooms and an iOS app for virtual fittings and added new features via frequent software updates.
The fairly quick cycle between Focals generations is impressive, but the consumer smartglasses landscape has changed greatly since Focals 1.0 launched. Vuzix has cut the price of its Blade smartglasses and continued to add third-party apps for the device as it prepares a new Focals-influenced design. Nreal also plans to launch the consumer version of its Light smartglasses in 2020 at a lower price and with more advanced capabilities than Focals. Other consumer-grade smartglasses contenders, such as Shadow Air and Norm Glasses, have also emerged.
We'll soon see if North's experience in designing, selling, and updating its first-generation Focals enables it to maintain its headstart over the encroaching competition.