When wearables startup North officially unveiled its Focals smartglasses in October, the stylish frames strongly resembled, in form and function, Intel's canceled Vaunt smartglasses.
Now, North's Focals may be about to have even more in common with Vaunt, as the startup has acquired the patent portfolio behind Intel's shelved project.
On Monday, North CEO Stephen Lake revealed, in a report from The Verge that his company, formerly known as Thalmic Labs, has purchased about 230 patents and applications, along with related "technology and assets," that would bring North's total patent arsenal to more than 650.
Like Vaunt, Focals provide a low-level form of augmented reality, essentially acting as a heads-up display for smartphone notifications, navigation, and other hands-free assistance, along with Amazon Alexa integration, in normal-looking frames. Basically, they are like a cross between the function of Google Glass and the style of Snap's latest Spectacles, but without the camera.
This is not the first transaction between North and Intel, as the former's venture capital arm, Intel Capital, led a $120 million funding round into the latter in 2016.
The two companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, but as a strategic investment, the sale is nevertheless an ideal outcome for Intel. As a result of the deal, Intel may recover at least a portion of its own research and development costs for Vaunt, while also reaping potential future returns as North takes the baton in the race for consumer smartglasses.
And for North, a company that's already ahead of the pack in the overall smartglasses race, the patent purchase may give the startup a boost as well. North already holds the patents behind its own smartglasses, but the additional patents could help safeguard its technology from infringement claims, something that augmented reality companies like Meta and Leap Motion are all too familiar with.
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