Google Glass could return as the company acquires smart glasses maker North

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There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago when it seemed like the next big thing in tech would be Google’s Glass. If you’re a little young for that, Glass was a set of smart glasses that would have granted augmented reality features to users’ lives. Alas, the tech was intrusive — giving rise to the term ‘Glassholes’ — and ultimately unfeasible. The project wound down in 2015.

But it could well be on its way back. Google announced last week that it was acquiring a company called North, “…a pioneer in human-computer interfaces and smart glasses.” By which the company means that North has made a better version of Glass than Google did.

Call it a comeback

North’s attempt at a set of smart glasses, called ‘Focals’ (because Glass was taken), involves fitting a tiny projector to a specialised set of glasses frames. This projector beams its information directly to the glasses’ lenses which, thanks to a reflective coating, show information up on the lens itself. Which is a neat implementation, in that it should work with various styles of glasses, supporting even prescription lenses.

The Google acquisition is aimed at expanding the company’s hardware aims, with Google’s Rick Osterloh explaining: “We’re building towards a future where helpfulness is all around you, where all your devices just work together and technology fades into the background. We call this ambient computing.” And North’s Focals — or a derivative or them — will be involved in ambient computing. Which, to be fair, actually looks quite impressive. At least, in concept.

Google definitely intends to push out a commercial product with North’s tech. The brand’s website has been scrubbed of everything but a few forms for those who bought Focals 1.0 and an announcement that Google has purchased the company. The short explainer says that Focals 2.0 won’t be launching, making it highly likely Google’ll have some input before the smart glasses hit the market.

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