Google’s much publicized flop with Glass dampened consumers’ enthusiasm for smart eyewear, and optical retailers and ECPs who championed Glass and other first-generation wearables were disappointed when they didn’t catch on with customers. Some of these first generation wearables failed because the designers emphasized the technology at the expense of the user experience.
But times have changed, and technologies have improved. As Chris Grayson points out in his article, “The Second Coming of Consumer Smartglasses” on page 72, a new generation of wearables is coming on-stream, and the designers of these devices have learned from the mistakes of their predecessors.
One of the most promising new entrants in the smartglass category is North. Their tech-enabled specs, called Focals, feature well built, stylish frames and a holographic display system. The glanceable interface is controlled by a special ring. Wearers can see texts, get directions, check the weather, request an Uber or speak with Alexa. The feature set is limited—at least for now—but practical.
I spoke recently with North CEO and founder, Stephen Lake, who explained to me his vision for the smartglass category: “In the past two decades we’ve seen an amazing increase in computing power. We can now talk to anyone in the world from a device in our pocket. On the other hand, we’re spending more time staring at screens and missing what’s happening in the world around us. We believe that if we get smartglasses right, it’s a way to bring the benefits we get from computing and devices out into the world with us. We’ll do this by designing experiences that are subtle and can invisibly and gently support what we’re doing as humans in the world.”
Lake believes smartglasses will follow a similar trajectory as the Apple Watch, which outsold conventional watch brands such as Rolex and Omega within three years of being launched. “It’s a technology-enabled product that brings value to consumers in a category that doesn’t have a lot of technological innovation especially in terms of consumer tech and software. They’re focusing on initially bringing value to consumers in an all-day form that will evolve over time,” he said.
If Lake is right, smartglasses, including one Apple is said to be developing, may soon become the apple of our eyes.
• Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology