North, the company that designed the stylish Focals smart glasses, has acquired the patents from the now-defunct Intel Vaunt smartglasses.
A quick comparison easily reveals how Intel’s patents could benefit the Waterloo, Ont.-based firm. The two products are extremely similar both in design and in function. They both use a projector mounted to the leg of the frame, which projects the image onto a reflective piece on the lens. The reflective piece, having been specifically calibrated and situated for every individual user, reflects the projection into the user’s eye. The smartglasses is designed to provide an intuitive, unobtrusive way to glance at notifications. Read our previous coverage for the complete primer.
Whereas Intel’s almost realized the final product, it had trouble in distribution. Intel doesn’t directly interface with consumers and relies on channel partners for sales. Though it has established a dominating presence in microprocessors, it needs a separate distribution line for a niche product like Vaunt. In a statement, Intel explained that it abandoned the Vaunt in April 2018 on the ground that “market dynamic don’t support further investments.”
North, on the other hand, is focusing on creating a direct to market strategy. With the consumer-oriented Focals as its primary product, it’s investing heavily into selling directly to consumers. It only has two physical retail locations so far in Toronto and New York, but it made a big splash in the media when it announced its Focals smartglasses in October of this year.
Intel Capital has been heavily invested in North since its early days. Other key investors include the Amazon Alexa fund.
Neither company has released the scope of the deal. In a press release, North comments that it will have nearly 650 patents and patent applications by the end of the year.
North have demo stations set up at its Brooklyn and Toronto locations. Visitors can also have their glasses custom-fitted at the stores. Each pair of Focals will cost $1,299 and can take a few months to make.