Wearables startup North has made a smart move to get its Focals smartglasses into the hands of more consumers.
On Wednesday, the company launched a new Focals Showroom iOS app that leverages the TrueDepth FaceID camera on iPhone X, XR, XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max smartphones to map the faces of users and complete the custom-fitting process for the smartglasses in their own homes.
Previously, customers had to visit one of the company's showrooms to order the smartglasses. There, the North employees would complete a 3D scan customers' faces to determine a precise fit and alignment of the wearable's heads-up display. Now, the app can gather that alignment information straight from the iPhone's front-facing and depth-sensing camera array.
After trying on virtual frames via an AR experience, customers can then complete their order for their new Focals without ever leaving the app (or their home).
North's smartglasses deliver information and enable users to interact with notifications and voice-activated assistants in their field of view. The Focals smartglasses were sold exclusively out of the company's showrooms in New York and Toronto beginning on Nov. 2018 and started shipping in Jan. 2019.
However, by Feb. 2019, the company had cut the price of Focals, eliminated some jobs, and began to send a traveling showroom to major cities and tech campuses along the Pacific Coast. North doubled down on its traveling showroom strategy over the summer, with two trailers crisscrossing North America.
"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," said Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of North, in a statement. "Today's announcement unlocks online access for Focals. With this release, we'll bring everyday smart glasses to customers across the U.S. and Canada."
North has been diligent in adding new functionality to the frames, including the addition of sports updates, trivia games, and language flashcards, distraction-free mode, support for Google Fit and Google Slides, Spotify controls, and sharing features, among other enhancements.
North Focals are often likened to the stylish frames of Warby Parker, so it is fitting that North has taken a page out of Warby Parker's playbook. The eyewear maker has also leveraged the TrueDepth camera to measure customers' faces for eyeglasses and enable them to preview virtual frames to order and try on at home. However, North's approach, enabled by San Francisco-based startup Standard Cyborg, is on another level altogether. Even Warby Parker's approach still requires customers to try on frames at home before completing the glasses-buying process.
Between a lower base price of $599, added utility, and now a more straightforward fulfillment process, North has their dominos in a row to breakthrough as the first mainstream smartglasses brand. Now we need to see if there's real consumer interest.
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