By Anna Lewicki / 21 Nov 2019

Focals by North Review

Reviews | hardware | blog | hmd

The Focals are made by a company named North, former Thalmic Labs, that was founded in Ontario, Canada. The Focals glasses first launched in October of 2018 and are now selling all over North America. They are augmented reality glasses that look just like regular classes! Their concept is to display the notifications from your phone directly into your field of view, that way you can continue to enjoy the real word without missing out on any important information.

These glasses are each unique and custom fitted to your face, thus the need to make a sizing appointment at a North Showroom. There are two main showrooms (one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto) and many Pop Up ones available on a first come first serve basis. During the first appointment North 3D scanned my head and took the measurements to accurately build my glasses. I didn't do this, but you can also add your prescription to the lenses. Then I had to make a second appointment to pick up the glasses a month later.

Picking up my Focals, just a month after the fitting

The North app is clean and easy to follow. From there you can manage permissions to different information systems, check alignment and battery life, access tutorials, and change the display types. The app is pretty much the channel through which the glasses reach the internet.

Inside the Focals there are all the classic elements such as the weather, your calendar, and your to-do list. But, there is also an access to maps, with locations and itineraries. You can select your destination and step by step instructions will appear before you. However, if you decide that it will take too long to walk to an appointment, for example, you can simply call an Uber right from the glasses. Focals also has a connection to Alexa to which you can ask to add an event on your calendar, or create a new task, etc. There is also a cool feature where you can rewind a conference: Lets say you reach a part of a presentation that you find especially interesting you can ask the focals to rewind and it will create a transcript of the last 30 seconds of the presentation and send it to you by email.  That can be a bit disconcerting, as it means the focals are constantly listening, but it can also come in handy when you really need to remember a certain part of the information.

Philippe wearing the Focals & the Hololens

These glasses can easily be worn all day as they are comfortable and the battery life is very efficient.  

Video Review

The video is a virtual reality video and is best viewed on an VR headset, plug in your favorite head set and head to YouTube or vr.afternow.io using Firefox Reality VR browser.

Summary

Pros:

  • Its the right form factor for AR glasses
  • You can wear them all day (comfort and battery)
  • Its an improvement from the smartwatch
  • Good integration with the phone essentials features
  • sunshades come with it, when clipped on they turn the glasses into sunglasses

Cons:

  • Limited to simple notification like displays
  • Very simple display, just text and simple drawings
  • No SDK for developers
  • You have to wear a ring all the time
  • Limited audio capabilities
  • Hard to read long text or follow a discussion

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